arrow-down audio close email facebook googleinstagram link quote triangle-downtriangle-uptwitter
checkmark facebook-circle star-six star twitter-circle website-circle

EDITORIAL BOARD QUESTIONNAIRES

Alyx S. Pattison

Democratic candidate for Illinois House (4th district)

Alyx S. Pattison

Alyx S. Pattison

Democratic candidate for Illinois House (4th district)

Education
BA Communications, BA Political Science, University of Utah. JD, Northwestern University School of Law.
Occupation
Attorney/Self-Employed, Sparked Strategies
Home
Chicago
Past Political/Civic Experience
Elected Delegate, Democratic National Convention, Utah's 3rd District, 1996. Elected Delegate, Democratic National Convention, Illinois' 4th Congressional District, 2004. Elected Local School Council Member, Community Rep., Jose de Diego Community Academy (CPS neighborhood school). Legislative Aide for Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. Director of Community Outreach, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky.

Responses to our questions

Why do you think it has been so difficult for Springfield to get a balanced budget passed and signed?

I think, in part, it's because there has been a failure (or refusal?) by all parties to openly acknowledge the severity of Illinois' fiscal situation. Neither the Governor nor the legislature has been particularly willing to state what to me appears obvious — that we can't provide decent state services and invest in our people, while also paying off our huge backlog of debt, unless we find additional sources of revenue. We cannot cut our way out of this mess. Add to that the fact that the negotiating parties have diametrically opposed views of what it is government should actually do and for whom it should provide and the "negotiations" (to the extent they happened at all) became toxic.

Bruce Rauner would have us kill labor unions and cut state services to the bone — leaving seniors, young people, public universities, the middle class and working people behind. Legislative Democrats, on the other hand, say we cannot cut anymore and still provide a baseline level of state services and the right for labor unions to collectively bargain must be protected. I side with the legislative Democrats whose passage of a budget never should have been pre-conditioned on the demands made by the Governor's so-called "turn-around agenda" which sought to force total capitulation by Democrats on a number of issues not even germane to the budget. Governor Rauner fundamentally misunderstood that governing is not the same as being a CEO where directives and marching orders are followed without question or negotiation — he refused to acknowledge that a co-equal branch of government saw things differently and that was the most important factor in the inability to pass a budget.

Do you believe the state budget can be balanced going forward without new sources of revenue?

No.

What new sources, if any, would you support? Please be specific.

New sources of revenue could and should come from a number of sources including: -Legalized marijuana revenue -Closing the carried interest loophole so hedge fund managers pay their fair share -Casino expansion (and the associated spin-off tax revenue) -A millionaire's tax amendment -A progressive income tax amendment -Expanded sales tax on services -Eliminating ineffective corporate tax breaks that cannot demonstrate a corresponding "public good."

Do you support a constitutional amendment favoring a graduated income tax? Please explain.

Yes. The current flat tax structure is unfair to the majority of Illinois taxpayers. Additionally, the state should have the flexibility to design a stable tax structure that lowers tax rates for those with lower incomes while raising rates for those at higher incomes. Illinois is one of only 8 states with an income tax that does not have a graduated rate structure. The current system is regressive and imposes tax burdens on middle class and working families that make no sense. Middle-class and working-class families have seen their wages stagnate while upper-income families continue to see wage growth. This means that as a policy matter, and under Illinois' current constitution, we are prevented from adjusting our tax base according to where growth is actually occurring. Smart tax policy should look to capture revenue where the economy is expanding, not where it's contracting or remaining stagnant. This is also true for sales taxes on services.

Please list five areas where you would cut spending.

Illinois has the one of the largest populations and the largest GDPs in the nation, yet ranks 49th out of 50 states in number of state workers per capita. Compared to its peers, Illinois has fewer state workers, spends less on Medicaid per patient, and is one of the worst in the nation for its funding levels of public schools. With that context in mind, it's important to note that any additional cuts would be cutting past the fat and into the muscle. I am unwilling to discuss budget cuts without also discussing new revenue sources. Additionally, your question presupposes there are some sacred cows with fat to cut — I don't accept that premise and I wouldn't make suggestions to cut in a vacuum and without examining the larger picture.

Since the Illinois Supreme Court's 2015 decision tossing bipartisan pension reform, what can and should the legislature do to control pension costs, if anything?

As a legal matter, the Supreme Court of Illinois has spoken. Pursuant to our state's pension protection clause which states that pension contracts "shall be an enforceable contractual relationship" and which provides that the benefits of those contracts "shall not be diminished or impaired" we are on the hook for those contracts entered into by the state with their public-sector workers. It's a debt incurred that is owed, period.

However, I do think steps can be taken to control pension costs related to the current debt obligation. I support re-amortizing Illinois' pension debt. Re-amortizing the pension debt would make the debt payments manageable and predictable. It would require a level, predictable dollar amount paid year over year which would, due to inflation adjustments, actually become a declining financial obligation as a line item year over year of the payment plan. Re-amortization would put Illinois on a path to fiscal stability. That stability and predictability is something that both Illinois residents and businesses would find appealing and comforting and would go a long way in revitalizing our economy and putting the faith of the people back in their government.

Should all new state workers be moved into defined contribution plans?

No.

What should the governor do to control pension costs during union contract talks? What would you do?

Your question assumes that the reason we have massive pension debt is because public sector unions somehow pull the wool over everyone's eyes by negotiating too-rich pension benefits. The problem is not with pensions themselves but with the irresponsible choice that was repeatedly made not to adequately fund them. The average state pension provides for payouts in retirement that are comparable to social security which most public employee retirees do not receive. For better or worse, we have made a decision in the United States to provide some retirement benefits for our citizens who work. The best way to control pension costs on a going-forward basis is to pay our pension bills on time and in full. I hope Illinois has learned its lesson — we cannot continue to kick the can. And, public-sector employees in Illinois are deserving of a modest retirement income in exchange for their decision to work in government.

Illinois lost more residents than any other state in 2016 and the trend appears to be holding for 2017. What is the No. 1 reason, in your opinion, for the exodus?

Additionally, Illinois has, especially since Governor Rauner became governor, ignored its obligation to invest in its people. Whether its education (K-12 and higher ed), job training, infrastructure, small business, or social services, we see our government abandoning its obligation to take tax dollars and deploy them for their best and highest use — investment in our citizens.

What should Illinois do — via tax policy, spending or other policy means — to keep residents from leaving?

Illinois should reform its antiquated revenue mix so that it conforms to the new services-based economy. And, Illinois' spending policies should be aimed at improving the lives of the people it serves. This means reinvesting in education, social services, infrastructure, vocational/job training and our greatest natural resource our people.

What should Illinois do to promote job creation?

I'm sounding like a broken record, but it should make education a top priority and invest in a cradle to career education strategy that emphasizes early childhood education and builds world-class higher education institutions. Right now, Illinois is experiencing a brain drain. We are losing our best and brightest students to neighboring states where tuition is cheaper, scholarships more plentiful and educational institution reputations are more appealing. We must fix these issues in order to keep young people here in Illinois and to stay competitive and appealing to employers. Additionally, Illinois should invest in infrastructure to rebuild crumbling bridges and roads while stimulating job creation.

Did you support the education funding reform bill that the governor signed in 2017?

I support the funding formula component. I do not support publicly funded tax credits for private school tuition.

What, if anything, should the legislature do to help Chicago Public Schools?

The recently passed funding bill helped CPS by providing approximately $300 million in additional funding for teacher pensions and general funding but that won't fix all of the budget problems at CPS. I think it's fair to say Illinois should do more to fund education across the board -- not just at CPS but around the state.

Do you support opportunity scholarships included in the funding reform bill? Or will you try, if elected, to eliminate that program?

I do not support so-called "opportunity scholarships" and would work to eliminate the program.

Should Illinois do more to regulate campaign fundraising? If so, what?

I think Illinois law should track federal law and federal limits. Those limits, both on amount and source, are eminently reasonable and workable.

What help, if any, are you receiving from your party and its leaders, including staff help, advice, legal assistance, money and resources? Be specific.

Specifically, none.

If you are an incumbent, give an example of a time you worked across the aisle on an important issue.

N/A.

If you are an incumbent, give at least one example of a time you did not vote with your party on a significant issue.

N/A.

Do you support term limits? If so, will you commit to sponsoring legislation and/or lobbying your colleagues on behalf of a constitutional change?

No, I do not support term limits. Voting is already at an all-time low in Illinois and across the country. I think term-limits would just give voters yet another reason to disengage with democracy. And, we have elections for the express reason of giving voters the opportunity to enact limit terms. Additionally, all organizations work best with people who have the institutional memory to guide newcomers. In states that have enacted term-limits, we have seen a void created by lack of institutional memory that has been filled by interest groups and lobbyists who are not accountable to the people. I think that's a more dangerous anti-democratic prospect than proceeding without term limits. Democracy is imperfect and messy, voters won't always get it right -- but voters are the people in whom the power should be invested and who should be encouraged to use that power.

Do you support changes to the redistricting process? If so, will you commit to sponsoring legislation and/or lobbying your colleagues on behalf of a constitutional change?

I would consider supporting changes to the redistricting process for state and local districts. I am opposed to changes in redistricting in Illinois for federal offices unless those rules are uniform across the country.

Tell us a little about your family.

I am the granddaughter of James and Anna Pattison and Alejandro and Lupe Martinez. Both of my grandfathers and my father worked at a copper mine in Utah called Kennecott. James founded and organized his local IBEW to win pension benefits for widowers whose husbands were killed on the job. I was raised by a single mother, Arlene Pattison, who was a trained teacher but because of a series of setbacks worked most of her life as a hospital secretary. We lived paycheck to paycheck and struggled to get by while taking care of my grandmother who suffered severe dementia. My father, Alex Martinez, was not in the picture, but he too worked at the copper mine. I come from a working-class family and I'm very proud of my working-class roots. Every one of my family's struggles has built me into the person I am today.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

My favorite workout is a great boxing class!

Candidates for Illinois House (4th district)

DEMOCRATIC