Name: Adam Niemerg
Seat: State Representative, 109th District
Describe your background, and how it relates to being a state legislator.
I am a Teutopolis native and I live in rural Dieterich (Bishop Township) with my wife, Trina, and two small children. I am a graduate of Teutopolis High School in 2002 and later I received a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Illinois University.
My parents, Phil and Stephanie, started their own small business in the garage of their home in Teutopolis. Growing up, I saw firsthand the struggles that many small business owners face. I know what it is like to try to be successful in a state like Illinois with so many regulations, fees and taxes making it difficult to survive let alone expand. These experiences helped define me. I want to go to Springfield to implement the reforms we need to grow our economy and to help the entrepreneurs and innovators who make this country work.
Finally, I am an adjuster for Country Financial. I have traveled all across the state working with those who live and work in our communities. I think that global perspective will make me a more effective legislator, which will ultimately be good for the 109th District.
Grade the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
First, I think the politicization of this virus has been very harmful to the country. What we need is facts and real information about the nature of this virus and unfortunately every piece of information we get is filtered through the prism of politics. We need the truth about this virus even if it goes against our worldview.
Second, I think that the lockdown of our economy was not the right response. I never understood why we locked down healthy people but did little to protect our nursing homes and assisted living facilities. About half of the deaths in Illinois have been from nursing homes. We should have focused on nursing homes and less on locking down our economy and shutting down churches.
Third, we need schools to be fully open and we need to let schools at least try to have sports. The governor’s overreach here is beyond frustrating.
Overall, I give the Governor a C-. I would have focused on securing nursing homes and protecting the most vulnerable. I certainly would not have had as long a shutdown as Governor Pritzker’s lockdown. His policies have done great damage to our economy.
We need to keep moving forward in terms of opening up our economy. Illinois businesses cannot afford another lockdown of our economy.
What can the state legislature do to help with the recovery from the pandemic?
The first thing we need to do is address pensions. Twenty-five cents of every dollar the state receives in revenue goes to pay for pensions. The pension crisis is making it extremely difficult for the state to fund other necessary parts of government. The governor and the Democrat majority believe that a tax increase is the solution. The reality is that sending more money to Springfield is only going to lead to more spending.
I suggest three simple steps we can take to begin to solve this crisis.
1. We need a Constitutional Amendment. States like Arizona have given their Legislature the ability to fix their pension problems through a Constitutional Amendment. We can do the same in Illinois. Voters need to be allowed to vote on this because it is taxpayer money at stake.
2. End Legislative Pensions. Many legislators are opting out of the legislative pension system. Let’s keep our obligations to current retirees but get rid of it moving forward. We don’t need a pension for a part-time job.
3. Move from compounding COLAs to simple COLAs. The compounding COLAs are contributing to the pension problem in a big way. Ending compounding COLAs would dramatically reduce our pension liability.
We also need to look at ways to lower the cost of employment in Illinois. The minimum wage increase is hurting communities in districts like mine. What is the incentive for businesses to stay in Illinois when moving a few miles away to Indiana can dramatically reduce their costs? We need meaningful business reforms in Illinois.
Finally, we need to end the culture of corruption in Springfield. The insider dealing is driving business and opportunities to other states. We need meaningful ethics reform and we need it now.
Besides the pandemic, what is the biggest issue facing the state, and how does it affect the people in your district? How will you address it?
One of the biggest issues facing Illinois and certainly in the 109th is jobs. Many of the communities in my district are on the Illinois/Indiana border. There are people who regularly leave Illinois to buy gas, to shop and even dine out. There is no compelling reason for a business to locate in Illinois when they can still get a lot of Illinois business traffic while locating in Indiana where the taxes are much lower.
My focus will be on lowering taxes in Illinois and making Illinois more business friendly. I grew up in a small business household. My parents are entrepreneurs and instilled in me at a young age hard work and perseverance. I am the oldest of five children and we all had to do our part to make ends meet.
We must make Illinois a destination for jobs and opportunities otherwise we will continue to see a mass exodus to states like Indiana. Lowering taxes, reducing the state’s regulatory burden, and taking steps to reduce the cost of doing business in Illinois, such as addressing the state’s workers compensation laws, are ways we can make Illinois more business friendly.
Describe an issue that is unique to your district and how you would address it in the legislature.
One of the issues facing this district is the out migration of young people to other states. Despite spending more on state aid than any surrounding state, public college tuition is soaring in Illinois. Other states run more efficient colleges and undercut our tuition. They also offer more scholarships, and mail acceptance letters in a timelier fashion than schools in Illinois do. When these students leave, they often do not come back. When we lose a new graduate, we lose a lifetime of community investment — not just tax revenue.
We need to do a better job of keeping our young people in Illinois. We need to make our colleges more efficient to lower costs so that our colleges can be more competitive, and we can keep our home-grown talent right here in Illinois.
What is your position on the progressive tax amendment? Why do you support or oppose it?
I oppose the progressive income tax. The graduated income tax is code for massive tax increase and that is the last thing Illinois needs right now. Illinois has the highest combination of state and local taxes in the nation. When you combine a graduated income tax with all the other taxes Illinois residents pay such as the second highest property taxes in the nation, a graduated income tax would do irreparable harm to our state.
If you are elected, how would you reach out to constituents who did not vote for you and what would you do to make sure their concerns are heard? How in general will you stay connected to your constituents?
First, I intend to be a full-time legislator. My only job will be serving the people of the 109th.
Second, I intend to do traveling district office hours to give constituents a convenient way to contact me and talk with me about their concerns.
Finally, I intend to develop an email newsletter to help keep constituents informed, as well as stay active on other social media.
Describe how you would find ways to work with legislators on the other side of the aisle.
Our nation has become too polarized. While there is nothing wrong with sincere policy disagreements, we need political leaders who will put partisan politics aside and work for the betterment of our state.
I intend to proactively reach out to Democrats and try to find common ground where possible. There are many Democrats who are supporting ethics reforms that Republicans are also supporting. Ideas such as ending the revolving door that enables legislators to become lobbyists immediately upon leaving the General Assembly has bipartisan support. I intend to build relationships with Democrats to help reforms like the revolving-door legislation become law.