Senator Stoller answers Geneseo High panelists about his first year as a legislator

Beth Welbers
Geneseo Republic

State Senator Win Stoller (R-Germantown Hills) got a rare opportunity to answer questions and give a few insights to a panel of Geneseo High School students Tuesday afternoon, April 19.  The six students were invited to the meeting based on their leadership skills and interest in a future career in government. 

The panel, a group of three boys and three girls, all upperclassmen, were allowed to ask the Senator questions regarding his job, and the challenges and accomplishments of his first year in office.

The Senator started the discussion by bringing up a familiar concept to most of the students, that of budgeting and making payments.  "What happens if we decide to take a vacation from making car or mortgage payments?"

Senator Soller had a rare opportunity to speak with Geneseo student leaders about his first year as a freshman legislator and the challenges and accomplishments he experienced.

The six panelists were well versed in repercussions of how that would adversely affect their personal finances, citing having their cars taken away, and paying higher interest rates. 

"Think of the State of Illinois, who for 20 years has spent more than they take in." The Senator went on to explain how Illinois now has both the worst bond rating and the highest pension debt of 50 states, due to those missed pension payments, deficit spending and the ramifications on the much higher level. 

Stoller went on to talk about the recent legislative session and the state budget that landed on lawmakers desks at midnight, giving them only 90 minutes to review the 3467 pages and the $46.5 billion in spending. 

Orion students gain real world work experience

A young man in a Geneseo sweatshirt asked "Who is pressing you for time when voting on this budget?"  Stoller responded that he was told "that is how you do it in Springfield."  To which, he explained to the panel how it works in the real world, using the School Board and a District budget.  From the time the schools develop their budget, they then give the Board a month to look at  it, ask questions, assess expenses and then vote on it. 

In the past, May 30 was the deadline for passing the budget, and in the 2021 session, a similar timetable of hours was given between seeing the budget and voting on it.  "If we can have a budget put together on April 8, why can't we do that every session, and give the General Assembly at least two weeks or more to review the contents of that budget?" queried Stoller.

Another young lady  asked the Senator about his SALT (State And Local Taxes) legislation that was passed, and drew the attention of Governor JB Pritzker as a way of providing tax relief for Illinois small businesses without reducing the state's revenue.  

Stoller, who owned a small business previous to being elected, as well as holding degrees in accounting and business, found a workaround to the tax cap, which when implemented, could save up to tens of thousands to individual business owners in taxes.  Stoller's wife, Amy, likened it to the squirrel in the movie "Ice Age" hauling around the idea like the nut in the movie, lest another lawmaker figure out the concept before it could be drafted into a bill and additional sponsors found.

Another student asked what it would take to reform the pension system, to which Stoller replied " Illinois and California have been see sawing back and forth for the bottom position regarding unfunded pensions.  It is the subject no one wants to talk about." Then Stoller explained that there is promise to existing pensioners, but new hires could have a different arrangement.  He is entitled to a state pension by virtue of the fact he is a legislator, but declined it, stating that he cannot be a reformer if he has a stake in the pension system. 

FFA members run their own businesses

When asked by one of the panelists, what he had learned in the year of being a Senator, Stoller replied that "People are people.  Treat people with respect and they will respond." Upon getting to Springfield, even during Covid restrictions, Stoller scheduled one on one meetings with other legislators, of both parties.  Many of those legislators found that unique, and respected him for the efforts.

 One of the student panelists asked the senator what they could do to get involved.  "Vote." was the senator's first piece of advice. Becoming a precinct committeeman was also advised, gaining knowledge of the process through that avenue. 

"We need people to get involved for the right reasons.  The system was never intended for career politicians."