Democratic candidate for Illinois House (4th district)
Responses to our questions
Why do you think it has been so difficult for Springfield to get a balanced budget passed and signed?
The two year budget stalemate has been a fiscal and governmental disaster in Illinois, and it is going to take a long time to dig us out of the hole. There is only one specific thing that the Illinois Constitution requires the Governor and General Assembly to do each year: pass a balanced budget. Unfortunately, the budget became entangled with extraneous agenda items and as a result we saw partisan gridlock. The best thing the voters can do this election cycle is to elect members of the General Assembly who are independent and did not rely on machine politicians for their election.
Do you believe the state budget can be balanced going forward without new sources of revenue?
Illinois cannot cut its way out of our fiscal mess. The only funds available for cutting are general revenue funds. Once you take out "hard costs" (things like debt service, which are required by the Constitution), 90% of remaining general revenue is spent on education, health care, social services, and public safety. Each of those areas has been underfunded in Illinois. While I think we need to be efficient and make cuts where we can, there is no way to cut enough to balance the budget. We need to reform our tax system so that we ease the burden on working class families while at the same time increase revenue from making the rich pay their fair share.
What new sources, if any, would you support? Please be specific.
I support a constitutional amendment for a progressive income tax. It will take a few years for the process of a constitutional amendment for a progressive income tax to pass and be implemented. In the interim, my plan to provide some tax relief to working families is to allow a capped income tax deduction for sales taxes. This would greatly benefit middle and lower income families, and avoid the burden of double taxation. To make up for the lost revenue, the State could close sales and use tax loopholes used primarily by corporations or expand the sales tax base to services. In either case, we can increase revenue to the state while at the same time providing significant income tax relief to working families. I will post details of the plan on my website, www.neighborsforanneshaw.com.
Do you support a constitutional amendment favoring a graduated income tax? Please explain.
The nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy ranks Illinois as the 5th most unfair state when it comes to how our tax burden is distributed. We rely on highly regressive sales taxes and property taxes, and with our flat income tax the top 1% actually end up paying a lower percentage in state and local taxes than the bottom 20%. The problem in Illinois is not the total tax burden, but that we place too much of the burden on working class families. A progressive income tax is a crucial step to making our tax system fair.
Please list five areas where you would cut spending.
We cannot cut our way to a balanced budget. However, there are things we can do to cut costs:
- Bulk purchasing of drugs for Medicaid patients to reduce pharmaceutical costs under Medicaid
- Tightening up the rules for tax credits to make sure that companies getting those credits are actually creating jobs that stay in Illinois
- Cutting expenditures for film promotion. Both the conservative Mercatus Center at George Mason University and the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities have criticized the use of film production tax credits as a waste of money.
- State funding for county and state fairs
- Eliminate the tax expenditure for private school scholarships
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?
The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled three times that the State should keep its promise to pay pensions to workers who paid into the system. We have to address the pension debt honestly, and that means coming up with a workable plan to pay down the debt we have been accumulating since World War I by not making the required payments.
A responsible plan would include a dedicated funding source, reamortization of the debt over a 30 or 40 year period and a level dollar payment plan rather than a "ramp to the ARC." In other words, it would look much like a conventional mortgage. In the past, the ramp to the ARC required a payment that increased each year, putting off the payments to the future with each year's payment increasing. Of course, because each year requires a higher payment, the pension debt continues to squeeze budgets year after year. If we had a dedicated funding source with a level dollar payment, this squeeze would not happen. It may require some short term pain, but long term a real solution to our pension debt frees the state to concentrate on its other priorities.
Should all new state workers be moved into defined contribution plans?
No. The problem we face is the debt for unfunded pension liability, not the normal (current) cost of paying pensions. Even for Tier I employees, the normal cost is very close to what an employer would pay in Social Security, Medicare, and a 401(k) match. The cost to the State is even lower for Tier II employees. By cutting off Tier II and creating a defined contribution plan, the total current debt does not disappear. What happens is that Tier II employees no longer subsidize Tier I debt. The other consequence is that the full cost of pensions becomes due immediately — you have to pay the legacy pensions, plus you cannot reamortize 401(k) contributions. That's why states that have switched to even a partial defined contribution pension ended up seeing unfunded liabilities actually grow rather than decrease.
What should the governor do to control pension costs during union contract talks? What would you do?
As noted above, the problem with public pension funding is not the normal (current) cost, but the accumulated years that employees paid into the pensions while the State did not. I am not sure I see a solution to that problem in union contract talks.
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?
It's hard to say that there is one particular reason for a decline in population of 0.2%. Other states lost a larger percentage of population, such as Wyoming which lost 3%. Any one of several demographic factors could account for Illinois' small decline. Of course, we want Illinois to be growing, and to grow we need to provide the conditions for good jobs, good schools, and a high quality of life.
What should Illinois do — via tax policy, spending or other policy means — to keep residents from leaving?
Framing the issue as "keeping residents from leaving" does not accurately reflect the tiny percentage of population loss. The issue is, "How do we grow?" We know from experience that simply cutting taxes (and balancing budgets by slashing services) doesn't work — just look at Kansas. We need to reform our tax system so that it's fair, invest in our schools, and work on creating the infrastructure that modern businesses need.
What should Illinois do to promote job creation?
States with jobs and job growth attract people from other states. While much of economic growth involves factors the state government does not control, it is also true that the State of Illinois has created a climate of uncertainty because of the budget stalemate. The first thing we have to do is come up with a realistic plan to address our fiscal issues so that businesses have the stability they need to make long-term planning decisions, such as building a factory. Another factor we control is the ability to provide employers with top-rate employees, and that means fixing our schools. I am confident that Illinois will become an engine of economic growth when we create fiscal stability, invest in our schools, and create working infrastructure that allows businesses to thrive.
Did you support the education funding reform bill that the governor signed in 2017?
With the exception of the income tax credit for private school scholarships, I generally support the education funding reform bill. I am particularly pleased that we have changed the way we look at school funding from arguing over which districts have the political clout to get more state funds to looking at what the evidence shows us works in the classroom. What the education reform bill is missing is the extra resources the State needs to provide to our schools.
What, if anything, should the legislature do to help Chicago Public Schools?
The most important thing the legislature can do to improve Chicago Public Schools is to bring accountability to the school board by making it an elected, representative body accountable to the people. I also believe that the State needs to live up to the constitutional mandate to be the primary funder of public schools. We are second to last in State funding of our schools, and that means we get highly inequitable education and an overreliance on property taxes. Last, I would like to develop a school-to-work apprenticeship program so that students in my district have an incentive to stay in school and have a path to a good job when they graduate.
Do you support opportunity scholarships included in the funding reform bill? Or will you try, if elected, to eliminate that program?
I would like to see that income tax credit eliminated. We are diverting $75 million from other services and programs to benefit not education, but those wealthy people who can fund scholarships that won't necessarily be available to all students.
Should Illinois do more to regulate campaign fundraising? If so, what?
There's too much money in politics, and it's unfairly distributed. As a result, candidates for office spend entirely too much time talking with donors and potential donors rather than listening to voters. As a result, I would like to see a system of public financing of elections. I don't expect such a system to pass easily or soon, so in the interim I support a small income tax credit for political contributions to increase the number of small dollar contributions.
What help, if any, are you receiving from your party and its leaders, including staff help, advice, legal assistance, money and resources? Be specific.
I am the only candidate in this race who has not accepted help from a committeeman or alderman. I am running with the support of my neighbors, friends, and colleagues — not the political machines. This allows me to run as an independent Democrat, who will answer only to the voters.
If you are an incumbent, give an example of a time you worked across the aisle on an important issue.
If you are an incumbent, give at least one example of a time you did not vote with your party on a significant issue.
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. In states which have enacted term limits, institutional knowledge passes to unelected lobbyists. It's the wrong solution for the problem of out-of-touch incumbents. I would look to reforms such as public financing that limit the advantages an incumbent has in an electoral campaign.
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?
We have some crazy looking districts in Illinois. However, in some cases the oddly shaped districts actually serve a purpose, such as the C-shaped 4th Congressional District. I support changes to the redistricting process as long as they comply with the spirit of the Voting Rights Act and ensure that traditionally disenfranchised populations have a chance to compete and have their voice heard in the political process.
Tell us a little about your family.
I admire my father, Jack Shaw, very much. He came to this country to study for and obtain his Master's Degree in Social work, and after graduating took a job as a social worker in Atlanta, Georgia, in the 1960s. Among his many talents is judo, and as one of his activities he volunteered to teach young African-American boys the sport. However, when it came to competing in the segregated South, his team was not welcome. In one case, the organizers of a tournament actually cancelled the competition rather than compete with my dad's African-American students. My dad took in stride. He told his kids that they should just have a good practice, because the equipment was so much better than the equipment they had. I did not learn until I was an adult that during this time he often received calls from civil rights giants such as Dr. King, offering to help protest that his kids were blocked from competing because they were black. For my dad, helping the kids was the important part of the story. Late night phone calls from Dr. King were secondary details.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
If the election were decided by who would win at World of Warcraft, I'd win easily.