Local Elections

Leslie Coolidge, Candidate for Congress (6th District)

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Candidate Full Name: Leslie Coolidge

Office: U. S. House of Representatives U. S. Congressional District 6

Party: Democrat

Email Address: info@coolidgeforcongress

Web Site: www.coolidgeforcongress.com

Campaign Name: Coolidge for Congress

Campaign Office Mailing Address: P.O. Box 3161, Barrington, IL 60010

Phone: 847-277-0904

Survey Questions (Character limit of 2,000 per response)

1. Do you support abolishing earmarks? If not, why?

I believe the use of earmarks, which have essentially become a free pass for Congressmen to insert whatever projects they desire into legislation, should be more strictly monitored to eliminate wasteful pork-barrel projects. However, I do believe Members of Congress should be able to identify and fund critical projects within their districts. We cannot expect the President, the Congress or the federal government as a whole to know exactly what projects are necessary in the communities in the 6th Congressional District. We elect individual Members of Congress in large part for their ability to identify and fight for our local needs.

I would like to work with reform groups to improve this process and make sure it is fair to the taxpayers. In particular, I believe we need to reform the way that Congress reviews funding for local initiatives. Such projects should not be added to a bill and voted on at the last minute  or used to "purchase" votes. There must be ample time given for analysis and evaluation.

2. Does the country need immigration reform? If so, what are your plans?

We are a nation of immigrants  it is one of the great sources of our strength and resiliency. However, throughout our history, some people have wanted to shut the door on immigrants who they viewed as not being sufficiently "like us." We should start a discussion of the immigration problem by acknowledging that people are going to be drawn to the promise of America and will attempt to come here whether we want them to or not. That is part of the reason we need to develop a comprehensive immigration reform policy.

One of the overlooked factors in the immigration debate is the recent slowdown in illegal immigration. Given the heated rhetoric around the issue, it is tempting to just look at "what is broken" rather than "what has worked". According to figures released by Pew Hispanic Center in 2011, the size of the illegal-immigrant population peaked in 2007, with about 58 percent of it of Mexican origin. Since 2008, that population has shrunk by roughly 200,000 a year. I believe this resulted from a combination of stricter enforcement of current immigration laws -- plus a weaker US economy. Our experience during this timeframe merits further study by Congress.

We need to focus on finding a path to legal status for hardworking people with jobs who are already here. Most would prefer to be paying taxes and buying homes, contributing to our society and helping our economy. Unfortunately, there is not a realistic path to legal status for many of the workers in our economy. I think we can get a better handle on immigration by bringing illegal immigrants out of the shadows with a reasonable path to legal residency. I believe we should also address the "brain drain" issue. Many talented immigrants come to the U.S. to study in fields such as science and technology then leave after they receive their education. Our immigration policy should be revised to encourage these leaders to stay in the U.S. and contribute to our economy and our quest for innovation. Additionally, we should address the fact that many immigrants prefer to send remittances, and eventually return, to their home countries rather than attempt to become citizens.

I support development of a new visa system which allows individuals specifically needed by U.S. employers to enter the country without "cheating the system" -- along the lines of the H-2A agricultural visa program. We should also ease the green card process that currently allows only about 5,000 low-skilled workers to enter the path to citizenship every year. There are more than a million waiting for their applications to be approved. Hard-working immigrants who sincerely want to be American citizens or legal residents should be given the opportunity to achieve the American dream.

I strongly support the DREAM Act and believe our nation will be stronger as a result. I also support the President's directive to stop deportation of undocumented immigrants who are in college or the military. Immigrants who were brought here by their parents as children do not deserve deportation. If they are working to serve our country in the military or working to become productive taxpaying members of society by furthering their education, they should be allowed to pursue the American dream.

3. Can the budget deficit be controlled only by spending cuts or does the federal government need to raise more revenue? If you favor more revenue, should there be a general tax hike?

I favor a balanced approach with both spending cuts and revenue increases on the table and I have the budgetary skills to develop such an approach while supporting economic recovery.

In order to reduce the deficit, our first priority should be to focus on economic growth. The deficit will go down significantly when the unemployed and underemployed begin paying taxes on increased earnings and businesses, which currently lack confidence, begin to invest and hire.

However, we must reduce expenditures wherever possible because there is still waste in government spending. For instance, now that the war in Iraq is over, spending on military contractors should drop precipitously. We must act immediately to stop widespread fraud in Medicare, as well. According to the Chicago Tribune, the GAO estimates that $48 billion in Medicare payments went to "improper payments" in 2010.

As a CPA, I am trained to understand the facts behind the numbers and to develop appropriate solutions. We need to spend responsibly, but I think you need to take a scalpel to programs rather than an ax because when you slash indiscriminately, you risk damaging programs that save money in the long term. An example of this is the Head Start program, which is continually on the Congressional chopping block. Studies have shown that kids who participate in early childhood education have a greater chance of finishing school, staying out of trouble with the law and becoming responsible, independent citizens. This saves taxpayer dollars and greatly reduces social costs. When I pursue spending cuts, I will look carefully at long-term projections.

On the revenue side, I do not support a general tax hike. I believe we need to prioritize putting money in the hands of those who will spend it to generate demand in our economy: middle and low-income earners. If you make less than $250,000 per year, you should continue to enjoy the income tax rate cuts while the economy is still struggling. We should also continue the payroll tax cut until the economy recovers. But the nation cannot afford continuing the tax cuts for the wealthy. According to the Center for American Progress, using CBO figures, the Bush tax cuts for upper-income taxpayers alone will cost the treasury almost $900 billion over ten years. Congress can also change the rules for people who are not paying their fair share, such as private equity firm managers who can treat their income as capital gains, costing an estimated $100 billion in lost revenues.

4. Do you favor President Obama's planned 2014 military withdrawal from Afghanistan? Why or why not?

Yes, I favor the withdrawal plan. Over 2,000 American lives have been lost in Afghanistan and we must wind down our presence there. The mission in Afghanistan should be to support the Afghani people as they determine their own future, as well as to keep the Taliban and other terrorists in check. This can be accomplished better, I believe, by not actually having fighting forces on the ground there. In the future, our consideration of what to do outside our shores must always include an honest calculation of the costs to our country in lives and dollars, as well as a clear sense of what we hope to accomplish.

5. Do you believe there is global warming? If so, is any of it man made and can we do anything about it?

Yes, climate change is real and it is man-made, according to the vast majority of climate scientists. It is also getting worse. The U.S., along with China and other big polluters, should be leading partners in global agreements to reduce greenhouse gases. There are also several viable solutions that Congress can help implement which will go a long way toward solving this problem. The most realistic solution is the market-based one almost implemented by Congress a few years ago: cap-and-trade. This has the great advantage of giving industry incentives to reduce overall emissions, which is a big step in the right direction since industrial emissions are a greater source of greenhouse gases than cars.

Deforestation is another leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions and we should support REDD, the UN's effort to reduce global deforestation. This program offers financial incentives for developing countries to refrain from cutting forests.

Congress should provide more help to support companies pursuing alternatives to fossil fuels. For example, wind power can allow us to reduce our dependence on electricity generated by fossil fuels. Unfortunately, Congressional inaction on extending the wind production tax credit (PTC), which expires at the end of this year, could harm the wind energy industry. 75,000 jobs could be lost nationwide if Congress does not extend the wind PTC. We should immediately extend this tax credit.

We should also consider how to better support a vibrant high-tech biofuels industry. These "green" subsidies, far from being simply handed out to already profitable and powerful companies like those in fossil fuel industries, instead promote our energy independence, protect our environment and create jobs.

In addition, the U.S. government can also promote green alternatives, like Smart Cars and solar energy, by providing tax and other incentives to encourage consumers to buy them. I would also support the effort to bring a high-tech battery facility to Illinois to help jump start that industry.

I support the President's recent move to require automobiles to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025  essentially doubling fuel efficiency. I appreciate the fact that this agreement was reached through the collaborative efforts of the administration, the state of California, automakers and environmentalists; proving the progress that can be made when elected officials bring all sides together.

6. How will you balance your personal views and beliefs with those of your constituents and the need to compromise for legislation to pass?

I believe that I am in a unique position to be a leader in the effort to create constructive compromise and ease gridlock in Congress. I am a CPA and CPAs are trained to be problem solvers, not advocates for a particular ideological position. I have a lot of experience negotiating with clients on financial matters and resolving disagreements through dialogue and compromise. That is not to say that I would never take a firm position, but it would be based on an understanding of the facts and the needs of 6th District residents, not on political orthodoxy. I would balance my personal views and beliefs with those of district residents; a problem with our current dysfunctional and unpopular Congress is that many Members believe that their own views on critical public policy questions are absolute and infallible. I, on the other hand, welcome ideas from district residents.

We need more people in Congress willing to work together to solve problems. I believe that "sticking points" only become sticky when people stop listening to the other side. We should be willing to consider all options to produce results. You cannot compromise with people whose only response is to say "no." But I believe you can reach across the aisle to develop relationships with people who believe that finding solutions to our pressing problems should be our top priority. I admire the women in the Senate who meet together regularly for dinner and promote civility on a bipartisan basis. I believe that reasonable people can craft sensible solutions to complex problems when we focus on the needs of the people we serve.

We can end the "crisis driven" attitude by electing people to Congress who actually believe in planning ahead and governing, rather than political posturing and brinksmanship. I got interested in running for Congress during the debt ceiling debate last summer when I saw the Tea Party freshmen acting like the idea of defaulting on our debt was a good thing. In what possible world is it a good idea to go to the brink of national financial ruin just to make the point that we have too much debt? Everybody gets that, but showboating on a formerly non-controversial issue like raising the debt ceiling to pay bills already incurred gets us nowhere fast. We need practical, pragmatic and bipartisan solutions. And that often means compromising ideology for the common good.

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