Candidates talk health care, minimum wage at Naper event

Republican candidates in next month’s 11th Congressional District primary are united on one issue: they think the Affordable Care Act is a major problem for business and the entire country.

The candidates are vying to face off against U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Naperville) in the fall election.

The act should be repealed, “the sooner the better,” state Rep. Darlene Senger (R-Naperville) said at the Republican candidate forum Friday at the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Other candidates Ian Bayne and Chris Balkema agreed, but candidate Bert Miller only called for the repeal of the mandates for businesses and individuals to purchase insurance.

Miller stopped short of calling for full repeal and said he supported changes to the law proposed recently by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

“We’ve got to take care of the poor (and those with pre-existing conditions),” he said.

The candidates spent an hour answering questions, sticking fairly close to already stated campaign themes and agreeing on many issues, but drawing clear distinctions on others.

About the prospect of the sharply divided nature of the U.S. Congress, Senger stressed that a legislator needed credibility and the trust of the other side.

“You have to be invited to the table to do it (negotiate),” she said.

Miller said that he had always talked with union leaders in his business, and Balkema said it was important to stand on principle while being willing to get things done.

But Bayne thought bipartisanship is overrated.

On tax reform, Miller and Balkema both said that a big problem for American business productivity was the nation’s high corporate tax rate, and called for lowering it.

Senger supports tax reform that would compress brackets and make them lower for everyone.

Bayne called for a flat tax, saying that much of the present tax code is “a set of behavioral controls,” while a better system would be one that is “blind to our behavior.”

Senger said that her first priority if elected would to work on resolving problems related to Obamacare, while making sure that people with pre-existing conditions are taken care of.

Miller said his focus would be on job creation, particularly the Keystone Pipeline, a project approved by the Federal EPA but held up at this point.

“That’s a shovel-ready project,” he said, pointing out that moving oil by pipeline is safer than by rail or barge.

Bayne promised to work first to repeal the Affordable Care Act, saying “you cannot fix Obamacare because it’s fundamentally flawed.”

Balkema wants to work on sending members of Congress back home sooner with term limits.

On the minimum wage increase proposed by the Obama administration, Bayne said that it was best to leave the wage decision to the employer.

Balkema was against raising it and Senger said that making sure people have a “living wage” is more important.

Miller is not opposed to the concept of a minimum wage, but didn’t like the administration’s proposal, instead saying he was in favor of indexing the minimum wage to inflation.

Naperville City Councilman Grant Wehrli noted that two of the candidates don’t live in the 11th District.

“Why should I support someone who doesn’t live in-district,” he asked.

Miller said he only lives one mile away from the district boundaries and would move in if elected. He also said he was a businessman in Naperville for years, which made him familiar with the district.

Balkema said he didn’t think it was appropriate to move right away because his children are still in school.

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