Candidates conflict on UI funding

By Ryan Davis

Candidates running to represent the 52nd District in the Illinois State Senate butted heads on a range of issues including education, extending the rate freeze on electrical prices and campaign advertising during a televised debate that aired Friday night on WILL-TV.

Democrat Mike Frerichs, Republican Judy Myers and Socialist Equality candidate Joe Parnarauskis were present for the debate. The candidates, who debated issues such as their commitment to funding educational facilities at places like the University, are all attempting to fill a vacant seat left by incumbent State Sen. Rick Winkel, R-52.

Frerichs pointed out that Myers, who previously served from 1997 to 2002 as state senator for the 53rd District, was in office when the University received a 5.5 percent cut in funding. Myers countered by stressing that by the time she left office there was $100 million more in the state budget for colleges and universities.

Following redistricting in 2002 that combined much of the 53rd District with the 52nd District, Myers lost the Republican Senate primary to Winkel.

Parnarauskis said the entire problem of educational funding could be solved by reapportioning wealth.

“We’ve got 19 billionaires in this state,” Parnarauskis said. “It’s time to reapportion that wealth to where it’s needed. We’ve heard the same excuses from democrats and republicans year after year. There are billionaires who pay very little in taxes.”

Parnarauskis said he would push for a heavy progressive tax to fund universities.

All candidates came out in support of an extended rate freeze with Myers, saying that she would like to see all parties sit down and discuss the issue before anything is set in stone.

“I’d vote to extend the freeze,” said Frerichs, who doubted that electrical utility companies such as AmerenIP would suffer given their profit growth during the present rate freeze. “Their profits have doubled in the past 10 years.”

Parnarauskis said the rate freeze is necessary, but pointed out that a long-term solution would be to socialize the utility companies.

“We call for the socialization of essential industry,” Parnarauskis said.

The debate also saw Frerichs and Myers point fingers over who first resorted to negative campaigning tactics.

“I didn’t start with negative campaigning,” said Myers, who point out that she has attempted to continue positive campaigning while concurrently responding to some of the issues brought up in Frerichs’ ads.

Myers said Frerichs first ran negative television ads while Frerichs claimed that Myers’ campaign ads started attacking him personally in a blog over nine months ago.

“I also think the public has a right to know your opponent’s record,” said Frerichs, in defense of the ads his campaign has run.

Other issues that divided the candidates were support of embryonic stem cell research and same-sex marriages. Myers said she is opposed to both, and Frerichs and Parnarauskis said they support embryonic stem cell research. Myers said she only supports work with adult stem cells.

Frerichs said it is wrong to deny people hope for a cure for their diseases, while Parnarauskis said the debate is based upon religion, which does not mix well with politics.

“My belief is that we should use the science and technology to its fullest,” Parnarauskis said.

In regards to same-sex marriages, Frerichs said the state should not get involved, and Parnarauskis said that same-sex couples have the right to marry.