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Thursday, July 8, 2010 03:45 pm

Third-party profile: Lex Green, Libertarian for governor

Green calls for $10b in cuts, an end to borrowing

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Libertarian candidate for governor Lex Green.
“I want to make it clear,” Lex Green says with wry inflection, “that Libertarians are not just another type of Republican. Democrats tell you they’re going to raise taxes and spend more; Republicans don’t even tell you.”

Green is running for governor of Illinois on the Libertarian ticket, a fiscally conservative but socially liberal platform that emphasizes minimal government with personal freedom and responsibility. He lacks the name recognition of his main-party opponents -- Democratic nominee Governor Pat Quinn and Republican nominee Sen. Bill Brady – but he does have a plan to fix the state’s budget crisis. He will also have his name on the Nov. 2 general election ballot – assuming the pending objections to his candidacy fail.

A lifelong Illinois resident and electrician at the Mitsubishi Motors auto factory in Bloomington, Green says he has become fed up with Illinois politics and wants to make a difference. In order to close Illinois’ estimated $13.7 billion operating deficit, Green has already published a theoretical state budget calling for $10.6 billion in cuts to state spending, including $3.4 billion from education, $811 million from human services, $585 million from healthcare and family services and other cuts. Those areas, along with pensions, make up 90 percent of the state’s budget.  

“I expect that the cuts would not be received well at all by the people actually getting the money,” he admits. “But I make these cuts with a certain amount of reverence for the fact that they are going to impact lives. I’m not just somebody who likes the whole slash-and-burn approach, but at the same time, I feel that the good of the state is served by making these cuts.”

In addition to heavy spending cuts, Green says he hopes to add more casinos, legalize concealed carry of firearms, eventually eliminate the state income tax and eliminate Medicaid in favor of private philanthropy. He would also seek to put new state hires on a Section 457 pension plan – the governmental equivalent of private sector’s 401k plan – in an effort to cut the unfunded liability of the state pension system. Currently, state pensions guarantee a certain level of benefits, even if costs change. Under so-called “defined contribution” plans, benefits are determined by the performance of pension investments.

Anders Lindall, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 30, the union that represents most state employees, says switching would actually cost the state more in administrative costs and would worsen underfunding of the state’s pension system by removing new contributions from the system.

“Any candidate should acknowledge the fact that they’re advocating for a more costly system,” Lindall says. “Defined contributions would drive up costs to taxpayers.”

Green also says he would not pursue a tax increase to fix the state’s finances.

“There are two things I’m adamantly opposed to: taking out loans to pay for our spending and increasing taxes, especially at this time when the taxpayer is burdened by the double effects of a recession and continued inflation,” Green says.

But Lindall counters that a recession is the worst time to cut services.

“Over the past two years, the state has cut spending by more than 10 percent, with devastating effect,” he says.

Despite the potential for political backlash, Green says he would be willing to make difficult cuts that the state politicians won’t.

“I think that if someone were to step forward and take the blame, for lack of a better phrase, I think they’d be willing to work with that,” Green says. “Maybe that’s what we need in Springfield, somebody who is less concerned about re-election and more concerned about doing what’s right.”

For more information, see Green’s campaign website at www.electlex.com.

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

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