State Senate Candidates debate over hot topics

By Audrey Williams

October 3, 2012 Updated Oct 4, 2012 at 4:35 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- Wednesday night 46th District State Senate incumbent Dave Koehler (D) and local businessman Pat Sullivan (R) debated several of the biggest issues facing the state.

The debate started with one of the hottest issues in Illinois politics--pensions. The candidates, along with most politicians in the state, agree the state needs reform, the big question remains how it will be done. That will likely be one of the first issues legislators tackle after the election.

"We are the laughing stock of the United States. The highest pension unfunded bill in the United states. That's a shame that we're in this position," said Sullivan.

"Look at protecting the people in the bottom, because those pensions and most of the people live on $40,000 a year or less and if we have to take excesses let's take them out of the top," said Senator Koehler.

Another major topic of discussion for the candidates was the 2011 temporary tax increase. Sullivan said that increase is what made him start thinking about running for office.

"It didn't need to be done," said Sullivan. "We have other places that we can cut. We have other places that we can do, I know it's going to be hard to cut."

Senator Koehler did vote for the increase. However, he said in tough times, tough decisions needed to be made.

Koehler responded to Sullivan saying, "Unless you're going to say how you would have cut an additional $6-7 billion out of the last 2 years budgets then this is all just political rhetoric."

Political Science Professor Nick Busch said both candidates did pretty well, but each showed certain strengths and weaknesses.

"Dave Koehler did a very good job at giving calculated remarks, his responses were all very pragmatic. He gave a lot of policy options for fixing some of the problems. On the other hand, Pat Sullivan gave a lot of really good big picture ideas. I think that he was less detailed in his answers," said Busch.

Ultimately, it will be up to the voters to decide who will serve them best in Springfield as the state continues to work through some very tough issues.

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