‘Change is hard, but we can do it,’ 98th state House District candidate says

by Karen Kidd, Will County Gazette

Springfield legislators should partner with business and communities – not work against them – to pull Illinois out of its recent ranking as among the worst states in the nation in which to do business, the Republican candidate for the state House 98th District seat said during a recent interview.

“Illinois needs legislators and policies that work for businesses and the people of our communities instead of against them,” Alyssia Benford, running against Rep. Natalie Manley (D-Joliet) in November’s General Election, told the Will County Gazette. “Illinois lawmakers increased the state income tax by 32 percent last year and are already considering raising taxes again. My opponent Natalie Manley voted for the income tax increase.  After the tax increase, the state still did not have a balanced budget because we didn’t adopt any spending reforms.”

Spending reforms don’t equate to austerity, Benford said.

“When we hear the term spending reforms, people often assume that means cutting services,” she said.”There are other ways to lower our costs without compromising services.  We can implement other cost-cutting efficiencies as well as perform program evaluations on services we offer to ensure our programs are operating effectively.”

Benford said that while working for Motorola, she helped implement best practices and internal controls based on studying the company’s competitors, customers and other economic factors, skills she thinks will help when it comes time to head to Springfield.

“Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin have all seen significant growth in jobs and their economy,” she said. “I am hopeful that Illinois will become the leader in the Midwest in terms of job growth and economic opportunities. In order to accomplish these goals, we need to elect people that (have) the ability to get the job done. Decades of overspending, overpromising and over borrowing raise the likelihood of more tax increases in the future to cover all the obligations that have been created. ”

The 98th House District covers all or parts of Bolingbrook, Crest Hill, Joliet, Plainfield and Romeoville.

If elected, Benford will become the first African-American female Republican representative in the history of Illinois, according to the release she issued when she filed petitions for her run in November. Benford has placed the blame for Illinois’ high property taxes on state officials, says she has a great desire for small businesses in the state to be competitive and has promised she will stand up to the machinations of Illinois’ longtime and powerful state House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago).

Benford’s most recent comments to the Will County Gazette came a few weeks after Illinois ranked 48th out of the 50 states in the Chief Executive Magazine’s annual poll “Best and Worst States for Business,” released May 3. It’s the fourth year in a row that Illinois has held that spot.

Illinois ranked behind No. 47 New Jersey, No. 46 Connecticut and No. 45 Massachusetts. It came in ahead of No. 50 California and No. 49 New York.

The best states in which to do business in the nation, according to Chief Executive Magazine’s latest poll, are  No. 1 Texas, No. 2 Florida, a tie for No. 3 between North Carolina and South Carolina, and No. 5 Indiana.

“Seem familiar,” Chief Executive Magazine said in its article released with this year’s poll. “That’s because those are the exact same positions each of these states has occupied in each of the last four years in our annual poll of CEOs about business climates.”

Benford admits it won’t be easy for Illinois to pull itself out of that ignominious ranking.

“Change is hard, but we can do it,” Benford said. “We have to elect independent leaders that will work to represent the people in our communities. Massive tax hikes with no reform is like putting a bandage on a gunshot wound. We need reforms that will grow our economy, decrease our unemployment rate, and attract businesses back to Illinois.”

As a Certified Public Accountant for more than 20 years, Benford said she has worked with business owners who have experienced challenges while trying to maintain or grow their business in Illinois.

“I had one client recently tell me that she is opening up a business, but plans to do it in Indiana, because ‘it is just too expensive to have a business in Illinois,” Benford said. “Her husband was also concerned that their take-home pay has decreased as a result of the personal income tax hike my opponent supported.”

Benford said she has the background and experience to do the job. “While working on my master’s degree in Governmental Accounting, I had the opportunity to study pension plans as well as state and local government financial policies and systems across the country,” she said.

“I am currently working on my doctoral degree covering pension plans, property taxes and their impact on education funding.  That’s why I’m running for office – to bring real tax relief to the families in our community and to change the policies that are hurting businesses.”

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