CHARLESTON -- For Dennis Malak, Democratic candidate for local state representative, filing for bankruptcy was learning experience, one that gave him an understanding of various systems in Illinois, specifically their flaws.
“I have seen what excessive borrowing can do, and that is why when running for office, I am calling for a balanced budget,” Malak said. “I understand even at the state level, even though we are talking about a lot more money, it is still going to be the same thing. You are still going to continue to snowball into a dangerous situation.”
Malak said his bankruptcy snowballed as a result of a perfect storm in his family’s life at one time. Malak said his bankruptcy was a result of medical related bills that been incurred during the time of his wife Sarah’s persistent health issues and birth of two children.
“When my wife was ill and her heart stopped, she was on (Family and Medical Leave Act) and FMLA in this country is unpaid (leave),” Malak said. “So, we lost half of our income. In order to make ends meet we had to turn to unsecured credit, because that was all that was available.”
Use of unsecured credit was meant to be a temporary need during this stint, but by the time Sarah got better, they were too much in debt, which caused the need to file for bankruptcy, Malak said.
“I don’t know a lot of legislators who have gone through bankruptcy and that does not seem to be stopping them any (from overspending),” Malak said.
He said he understands the real-life consequences of what that can do. Learning from his bankruptcy, Malak said, he thinks has given him a better understanding of what to do and more importantly what not to do when it comes to a budget.
Malak said one way in which he thinks Illinois can rebuild itself and more importantly avoid going consistently into the red budget-wise would be to broadening the taxing bodies in Illinois.
Specifically, the candidate calls for implementing a service tax in the state as a good avenue to bolster the state's revenue. Malak mentioned that he does not think the service industry is paying its fair share.
“It broadens where our state is pulling from,” Malak said. “Not only does that allow us more revenue, but it allows us more stability in the (potential) economic downturn.”
This, along with closing corporate loopholes that companies might use to avoid taxes, which Malak also mentioned, would cut down the state debt significantly within four to six years, the candidate said.
Malak said he sees it as necessary to increase tax revenue as well as cut expenses, but that those revenues should not come from places like income tax. He said he was vehemently opposed to increasing income tax as a way to produce more money, at least until the tax base is broadened first.
“What I don't want to do is continue to increase taxes on the very few we are continually asking to pay for everything. That is why we need to broaden our tax base, like income taxes,” Malak said. “We have few tax areas where we keep on increasing and that is what keeps hurting people.”
The taxing structure does not accurately represent Illinois’ economy, Malak said. Malak calls for a more progressive tax structure.
Malak said he is a proponent of trimming the budget as well as boosting revenue. While he did not detail where the state should cut expenses, Malak pointed out that education including higher education, infrastructure, social services and health safety services should not get the brunt of the cuts if at all.
One way in which he sees no real progress is through Gov. Bruce Rauner’s turnaround agenda, which includes several reforms unpopular in the Democratic legislature.
Malak said many of the points on this agenda do not solve the budgetary issues facing Illinois or do not do it in a worthwhile manner, an argument Democrats in the state have made against the governor’s sticking points.
From Rauner’s agenda, Malak said he is a proponent for redistricting to ensure the people in the state are better represented by people who share their beliefs.
While he hopes they would go in tandem, another large focus of Malak’s -- aside from passing a budget, a goal sought by the most state legislators -- is to push for full funding to Eastern Illinois University aside from the stopgap funding that has been piece-mealed to the universities across the state.
Malak said the stop-gap model has been inciting uncertainty in the people of this state, especially students looking to further their education in college.
This will be Malak’s second foray into the race to become the 110th District state representative. Malak ran as a Democrat in the general election in 2010 against another incumbent at the time, Chapin Rose, who is now Illinois state senator for the 51st District.
Malak is now contesting Reggie Phillips in the general election set on Nov. 8.