Cecil Matthews Jr.
Democratic candidate for Illinois House (38th district)
Responses to our questions
Why do you think it has been so difficult for Springfield to get a balanced budget passed and signed?
Partisanship. People are too comfortable in their positions and don't feel like they need to do anything or work together. People have been in their positions too long. Citizens are starting to wake up and change this. The politics have been too polarizing. Elected officials have been representing their party and not their constituents.
Do you believe the state budget can be balanced going forward without new sources of revenue?
No. We have dug a hole too deep to not need additional sources of revenue. The state needs to operate and there just isn't enough money. We will also work on eliminating the waste in the state, but more revenue is needed also. I would support additional sources of revenue including taxing recreational marijuana use, advocating for sports gambling, and amending the constitution to allow for a progressive income tax.
What new sources, if any, would you support? Please be specific.
I would support additional sources of revenue including taxing recreational marijuana use, advocating for sports gambling, and amending the constitution to allow for a progressive income tax.
Do you support a constitutional amendment favoring a graduated income tax? Please explain.
Yes, I believe the more you make, you have the ability to pay more. I've been blessed with my place in life (not rich by any stretch), and I would not mind paying a little more in taxes. We shouldn't burden the people who make more with a higher rate. I've traveled the world and see how government works in other countries, and we have a good thing here. Government needs revenue to operate and provide a social safety net and to opperate.
Please list five areas where you would cut spending.
- Cut administrative costs at public universities and all government offices. More and more money is being spent on administrators and not proving services and education.
- Decrease the number of units of government and consolidate those where possible.
- Actively seek discounts on procurement from any company doing business with state. Actively evaluating rates paid to companies for all products and services. Making all invoices available to the public in real-time. Citizen sleuths can help weed out fraud. In my current company, we save all of our invoices in pdf. In this day and age, there is no reason a system can't be developed to make these invoices available to the public. This includes making sure Illinois' fleet of vehicles is managed properly.
- Weed out fraud in medical spending.
- Reduce costs of elections, and running the general assembly.
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?
New employees should move to a 401(K) style plan. Current employees, to the extent possible should be transitioned to a 401(K) style plan that will help cap benefits in the future.
Should all new state workers be moved into defined contribution plans?
Yes. This is the direction that the private sector has moved.
What should the governor do to control pension costs during union contract talks? What would you do?
Unions have worked hard and negotiated all the benefits they have received. I believe the state should pay the benefits that have been earned and promised. We need more money to fund the pensions — and need to stop the benefits from accruing and new people from entering pension plans. This will cost more money in the short term, but the benefits will be seen by the next generation.
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?
Perception is reality to a lot of people. The perception that the state is in disarray is causing people to leave. We need to put forth a positive front and show that the state works.
What should Illinois do — via tax policy, spending or other policy means — to keep residents from leaving?
Property tax reform is the biggest thing that can be done to help people afford to stay in Illinois. We are getting crushed in property taxes in the 38th district. My house is worth approximately $260,000 and the property taxes are almost $10,000 per year.
What should Illinois do to promote job creation?
Illinois should promote the educational institutions and the pool of college educated talent that is available to employers as the number one reason to move to Illinois.
Did you support the education funding reform bill that the governor signed in 2017?
The education reform bill that was signed is a first step in the process to reform education funding. Local residents still need more controls and the ability to combine school districts and decide what administration costs should be. We are spending too much on education.
What, if anything, should the legislature do to help Chicago Public Schools?
Chicago has the largest tax base in the state and the legislature should let Chicago manage its school finances. The problems in the suburbs are more severe in that there is not the tax base available in Chicago.
Do you support opportunity scholarships included in the funding reform bill? Or will you try, if elected, to eliminate that program?
The program helps parents make the best choice for their children, and it should be applauded. Every child is different and legislation that helps parents make the best decision for their children should be applauded.
Should Illinois do more to regulate campaign fundraising? If so, what?
There should be a cap on the amount a campaign can raise and a cap on the amount a candidate can contribute to own campaign. In addition, a cap on company contributions should cover a wide period of time--five years. Part of the problem lately is that the person who raises the most money is the person who usually wins. This shouldn't be the case.
What help, if any, are you receiving from your party and its leaders, including staff help, advice, legal assistance, money and resources? Be specific.
None. I was interviewed by a Democratic Party staff member and we were getting to know each other. I called into a radio show and said I wouldn't vote for Mike Madigan. The party official asked me about it and I told him that I essentially thought Mike Madigan has been in his position too long, and the phone was hung up on me and I haven't heard from him again.
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?
Yes I support term limits and would support legislation. The reason we have dug such a deep financial hole is that people have been unmovable from their elected positions and feel they don't need to compromise on anything. We need a constant churn of people and ideas in the General Assembly---it's not a lifetime position.
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?
Yes I support redistricting reform. As I was getting familiar with the 38th district boundaries, it blew my mind how rigged the boundaries are. I believe the people in a district should be on similar mindset whenever possible. For example, there is a part of Will County and Frankfort that is in the 38th district. The people in this area are not being represented well because they are in a district that is mostly Cook County and of completely different demographics. In Matteson where I am from, there are people in my town on the other side (Matteson is not that big) who have a different State Representative. It makes no sense.
Tell us a little about your family.
I have a wife of seven years and a three year old daughter. My wife and I met in college at the University of Illinois. I have a younger sister who also went to the University of Illinois. Both my parents are in their mid-sixties and are retired. Both my mom and dad had at least six siblings. My wife was born in Jamaica and is the oldest of seven. I have in-laws that are still in elementary school.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
Inspired to run for office by president Obama's farewell address earlier this year. He said if you are unhappy with your elected officials, run for office yourself — and that is what I'm doing. Our local representatives have not been responsive to the needs of citizens, and our current representative has been impossible to reach. I want to be the elected official that people know my name, and feel like they can call me any time of day. When I was going door-to-door collecting signatures, I told everyone that I was not changing the phone number on my business card if I was elected.