CHARLESTON -- State representative candidates Shirley Bell and Chris Miller let their differences on taxes and other issues facing Illinois be known during a candidate forum Tuesday.

Differing responses from the two candidates for the House 110th District seat came from questions on Illinois' income tax, state revenue and its leadership.

Republican Miller regularly pointed blame at Democratic leadership and the contention that House Speaker Michael Madigan has far too much control on how the state operates.

"We need to plan to live within our means," Miller said at one point. "All they need to do is tax, borrow and spend."

It led Bell, the Democratic candidate, to say calls to "fire Madigan" were pointless in a downstate House district when the speaker represents a Chicago district.

"It's the cornerstone of his campaign and it's something he can cannot do," she said of Miller's argument. "We end up not talking care of our real problems."

Bell and Miller are competing to replace current Rep. Reggie Phillips, who isn't seeking re-election. The topics at Tuesday's forum were varied but focused largely on the state budget problems.

Bell said she favors an "entire overhaul of our tax system" that addresses property taxes and sales taxes as well as income taxes.

"Be very leery when you hear someone talk about one tax because it's not going to solve the problem," she said.

The topic arose during a question about possibly implementing a progressive income tax, which Miller said he felt was already in place.

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Higher incomes mean more taxes paid and and there's no real definition of a progressive tax or "what that needs to look like," he said.

The responses also differed when the candidates were asked if they would have voted the same as area legislators to end the 2016 budget impasse and override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of the budget.

Miller said he didn't have enough information to say how he would have voted. But he also said the budget is the responsibility of the Legislature and the impasse "lies at the feet of Mike Madigan" for making it a fight against Rauner.

Bell said she would have cast the same votes as the area lawmakers but "would not have spent two years," saying they had earlier chances to act on ending the impasse.

Meanwhile, candidates for Coles County sheriff were also invited to speak at Tuesday's forum.

Democratic candidate Greg Voudrie attended but incumbent Republican Jimmy Rankin did not, which a campaign representative said was because of an earlier commitment.

Because of Rankins' absence, only Voudrie was allowed to answer audience questions, which touched on such issues as the sheriff's office's budget and crime prevention approaches.

Rankins' representative, Carrie Pollom, was allowed to give opening and closing statements on his behalf.

The forum took place at the Unique Suites Hotel in Charleston and the Charleston and Mattoon chambers of commerce were the sponsor.

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