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With the fall elections in the past the 113th Congress will have a member Foster.jpgfrom Naperville. And he's eager to get to work.
The question is what should he be working on?
Let's use this space to let our new Congressman know what is important to you and what he, and Congress, should do on things such as spending cuts, the debt ceiling or whatever else is on your mind.
Let's hear some suggestions.

State lawmakers have introduced a bill that would drastically change how teachers in Illinois get tenure, can strike and be dismissed.
Under the proposal, which comes on the heels of teacher unions being decertified in Ohio and Wisconsin, Illinois teachers still have the right to strike but must negotiate longer and make their positions public before a strike can occur. And teachers need a specific rating to earn tenure, rather than it being automatic after a certain number of years.
Is this encouraging? Are the kids the real winner as some would suggest? Is this a good first step toward school reform? See this having an effect locally?

With Republicans taking back control of he House and winning many more state and local elections, due in large part to conservative activists such as the Tea Party, many local conservatives see this as the right time to get more people involved..
As one man said: "There's been so much apathy in this country for way too long."
Do you agree? Are you taking part? And is there anything similar to that on the left?

ELECTION DAY SPECIAL

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Who did you vote for? Why?
Who do you think will win?
Drop a blog post on what's happened today.

Even though Washington lawmakers argued for months over federal health-care legislation the issue is not over. U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert R-Hinsdale is calling for a repeal of the law. Check the story here. Do you like your health care coverage. Biggert has Blue Cross by the way. Do you want to see more change or would you like the whole issue to go away?

Gov. Pat Quinn unveiled his proposed 2011 budget Wednesday, and the one thing everyone seems to agree on is they don't like it.

Quinn proposed a 33 percent income tax increase Wednesday that he said would prevent deep cuts to education funding, part of a budget plan that depends mostly on borrowing money and letting unpaid bills pile up for another year.

He presented legislators with a stark choice: Cut support for schools by $1.3 billion or approve a tax increase. But even with a tax increase and spending cuts, Quinn's budget would depend on letting about $6 billion in bills simply go unpaid in the coming year.

He asked lawmakers to raise the tax rate to 4 percent, up from 3 percent now. That would generate $2.8 billion a year, the same amount he sought unsuccessfully last year. His staff said the money would go solely to prevent education cuts and to make overdue payments to Illinois schools.

Quinn's proposal would "balance" the budget by cutting expenses $2 billion, borrowing $4.7 billion to pay overdue bills and simply letting about $6.3 billion in bills go unpaid until the next fiscal year.

If Quinn gets a tax increase, the $1.3 billion in education cuts would be abandoned. That means the total spending cuts would amount to only about $700 million. Quinn aides say the governor already has cut about $2 billion in bureaucratic spending.

Between bills left over from the current year and the projected gap next year, the total deficit will top $13 billion, Quinn said.

Local legislators noted Quinn's proposal said nothing about controlling the cost of pensions, and Quinn's opponent in the November election, Bill Brady, called for a 10 percent across the board budget cut.

What do you think of the budget proposal?

With a primary election coming up on Feb. 2, there are seven Republicans, two Democrats and one Green Party candidate running for the office.

Among the Democrats are incumbent Pat Quinn and challenger Dan Hynes, the comptroller.

The Green Party candidate is Rich Whitney, a lawyer from Carbondale.

The Republicans in the race are Adam Andrzejewski of Hinsdale, Bill Brady, a state Senator from Bloomington, Kirk Dillard, a state Senator from Hinsdale, Andy McKenna, the former chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, Dan Proft, a Chicago businessman, Jim Ryan, a former DuPage County state's attorney from Elmhurst, and Bob Schillerstrom of Naperville, the DuPage County Board chairman.

There's no specific question on this thread, but feel free to discuss the gubernatorial campaign here.

Edit: Bob Schillerstrom dropped out of the race on Friday, saying he would support Jim Ryan.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has requested as many as 40,000 additional troops for the fight in Afghanistan, warning the U.S. could lose the war without the additional help. But with all indications pointing to a corrupt Afghan national election and a weak and corrupt Afghan government, many critics are wondering if the war is winnable and if the U.S. and NATO forces should cut our losses and pull out now. Eight years into the war effort, the U.S. presence in the country doesn't appear to be near the end of its mission, and the situation actually appears to be worse than it was years ago.

On the other hand, remember why American troops went into Afghanistan. It's Taliban government, besides brutally oppressing its people and forcing them to live a primitive lifestyle without education or culture, was also harboring al-Qaeda and numerous foreign terrorists. Should the U.S. pull out, it seems likely the Taliban would come charging back, punishing all those who dared to embrace the Americans and our democratic reforms. One can imagine the video coming out of the country as Osama bin Laden and other terrorists gloat over their victory over the Western forces. And with Pakistan finally moving against militants in that country, we would seem to be leaving just when there was the possibility of some progress.

Do you think the U.S. should send more troops, maintain troop levels, or pull out before more Americans are lost?

Double standard

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How come Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, is faced with questions about whether she could juggle the demands of the position on top of raising five children? Would a male candidate in a similar situation face the same questions?

Is this fair? Why or why not? How is this double standard able to exist?

A two-part series beginning in Sunday's Sun explores pensions for public-sector employees. Part I delves into city pensions: how pensions for police officers, firefighters, public works employees and others are funded. A typical 30-year veteran of a municipality these days can expect to collect about $72,000 a year for the rest of his life. And often that person will be in his 50s when he retires.

Part II explains how the burden for funding teacher pensions falls mainly on the state. Still, the income and sales taxes you pay are expected to pay for these comfortable retirement plans.

These days, it's hard to find comparable benefits packages in the private sector, where 401(k) and similar programs designed to help individuals supplement expected Social Security incomes are the norm. Employers often make a modest match, but nothing like the 9 or 10 percent matches that municipalities and school districts kick in.

Given the state's financial situation, it's clear that pension reform is needed. Match amounts are determined by state law. Yet lawmakers seem to lack the political will to even consider reform, what with the clout wielded by unions.

How do we fix this problem? How do we even start? Or, do you even agree that there is a problem? Maybe you think the current pension systems are fair and sustainable, that it will always be the responsibility of taxpayers to fund these programs. It seems unlikely that any proposal to reduce pensions would ever pass--it would be political suicide for any politician to support that.

OK, then, here's a thought: If state law forces local taxpayers to pay for these generous $6,000-a-month retirement plans, what about getting the state or federal government to increase income taxes on those who collect public-sector pensions? Then the recipients at least would have to kick back enough until a fair balance is reached.

What other thoughts or ideas about public-sector pensions do you want to share?

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