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On the Issues: Where the Illinois US Senate candidates stand

November 3, 2016 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) — Four candidates are running for U.S. Senate in Illinois: Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, Libertarian Kent McMillen and the Green Party’s Scott Summers.

Here’s a look at their positions on some key issues, provided by the candidates in response to an Associated Press questionnaire:

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Q: What steps should the U.S. take to improve the economy?

Kirk says the U.S. needs a tax system that is “flatter and fairer” than the current structure, with fewer tax brackets, lower individual rates and simpler paperwork. He says corporate tax rates also should be lower, which would allow companies to better compete globally, expand and create jobs. He also wants to eliminate the estate tax, or the tax on inheritance.

Duckworth says the U.S. must invest in working families and small businesses by reducing their tax burden. She supports President Barack Obama’s efforts to limit so-called inversions, when companies relocate in another country — sometimes on paper only — to limit their U.S. taxes. Duckworth also wants greater investment in infrastructure to create jobs. She supports a $478 billion long-term transportation bill, which she says could be paid for in part by restricting inversions.

McMillen says the U.S. government needs to “go on a diet” so there’s less tax burden on businesses and taxpayers. “This will give everyone more discretionary income and the economy will boom,” he said.

Summers wants more so-called “microcapitalism” in which small grants, revolving loan funds and business incubators help people develop businesses in their homes and communities.

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Q: Do you believe income inequality is a problem? What, if anything, should the government do about it?

Income inequality has grown to levels not seen in decades, with the top 1 percent of earners reporting an average household income of $1.3 million. Their pay grew at more than twice the rate of the other 99 percent, whose pay averaged slightly under $49,000.

Duckworth said it’s “a serious problem” that negatively affects families and the U.S. She says the U.S. must invest more in quality public education, with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math. She says working and middle-class families are being asked to pay “more than their fair share” of taxes. And she wants to increase the minimum wage. She helped introduce legislation to raise the wage to $12 nationally by 2020, and to $15 in some areas.

Kirk didn’t provide a yes or no answer as to whether income inequality is a problem. “More jobs and job creators in coordination with access to education is the only sustainable path to ending poverty, not increased taxes and more government spending,” he said. Kirk added that Chicago is losing “a generation of kids” to gun violence and gangs, and noted that he’s partnered with a Democratic senator on legislation to make gun trafficking a federal crime.

Summers said it’s a problem and that it can be addressed by reforming the tax structure to impose higher tax rates on the wealthy.

McMillen said elected officials don’t need to address the issue, adding that it’s up to individuals to educate and motivate themselves so they’re more attractive to employers.

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Q: How should the U.S. best fight global terrorism?

Kirk says the U.S. must “stand shoulder-to-shoulder” with Middle East allies such as Israel. He is a staunch opponent of Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, saying it weakens the United States’ position and “elevates the leaders of a nation responsible for more American deaths than ISIS.” Saying Islamic State terrorists are trying to infiltrate refugee flows, Kirk has called for a pause in admitting Syrian refugees into the U.S. “until we can guarantee the strength of our screening processes.”

Duckworth supported the Iran deal, though she called it “imperfect.” She signed on to a letter asking the U.S. admit 100,000 Syrian refugees — far more than the Obama administration said it will accept — saying many are women and children victimized by the Islamic State and screening is thorough. She supports targeted military action in the region, though the Iraq War veteran said she has “reservations about the deployment of our military without a long-term plan or exit strategy.”

McMillen supports the U.S. sharing intelligence with allies and providing support “which does not mean boots on the ground.”

Summers says the U.S. should “radically shift our foreign policy” away from “perpetual warfare” to extending foreign aid and repurposing the military to provide humanitarian aid.

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Q: What changes, if any, should be made to the Affordable Care Act?

Duckworth says Congress must accept that Obama’s signature health care overhaul is settled law and work to improve rather than repeal it. She supports a bipartisan effort to repeal the medical device tax and backed another bipartisan measure, which became law. It helped many small businesses avoid cost increases. “I’m confident that the ACA has made a positive impact on the lives of millions of Americans,” she added.

Kirk noted that in Illinois, the Department of Insurance reported an average rate increase of 43 percent for some plans this year. “We see that government funded health care is not cheaper, or better, than private competition,” he said. Kirk believes Illinois residents should be able to buy health insurance from any state in the U.S. and says the increased competition would lead to lower prices.

Summers believes the Affordable Care Act should be a “stepping stone” toward universal health care, or “Medicare for all.”

McMillen says the law needs to be abolished and replaced with “a consumer driven, open market system to health care in which you only purchase the care you want.”

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Source: AP candidate questionnaires and reporting.