Curtis J. Tarver II
Democratic candidate for Illinois House (25th district)
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 the issues are complicated and that leads to very spirited, and often partisan, debate. There are also a lot of competing interests. There is only so much revenue as it stands and dividing resources requires prioritizing matters. It seems that often there is not an agreement as to the priorities.
Do you believe the state budget can be balanced going forward without new sources of revenue?
I do not believe so. New revenue is required to balance the budget while ensuring that bargained for benefits are not summarily stripped away from the hardworking individuals who have and are performing their end of the bargain by providing services for the people of the state. I do see a way to "cut" the state's way to a balanced budget. Even with new revenue without a focus on a bigger plan for solvency the state will not have a balanced budget in coming years. It has to be new revenue and a focus on responsibly paying the state's debt.
What new sources, if any, would you support? Please be specific.
I would support the legalization of recreational marijuana as an additional source of revenue for the state. I would support the licensing of additional casinos and allowing for racinos. I would also support an alternative to the state's current flat income tax model. In every instance, I would push for increased funding for schools to be earmarked from each of these
Do you support a constitutional amendment favoring a graduated income tax? Please explain.
I would support an alternative to the state's current flat tax. Any alternative to the current flat tax would require a constitutional amendment.
Please list five areas where you would cut spending.
I would look to non-core services as the first place to cut spending. I would also look at a reasonable plan to pay the state's backlog of bills in a timely manner to avoid the high-interest rates associated with the debt accruing. I would look at what tax exemptions are allowed. The exemption and the loss of revenue received is essentially Illinois spending that money. I would also look at reducing recidivism as a cut to spending. IDOC in 2015 had a 1.4 billion dollar working budget for a system who's population increased 200% between 1982 and 2015. Reducing recidivism provides real cost savings. Cutting spending without additional revenue is not enough to balance Illinois' budget. Compared to many other states Illinois has fewer state workers (down by 26% since 2002). Illinois has the fewest number of state employees per capita. Illinois spends less on Medicaid per patient and has perennially been known for having the worst record and reputation nationally for funding its local schools. With the largest sections of the budget relating to state employee costs, education and healthcare it is nearly impossible to make meaningful cuts without sacrificing core services for Illinois residents.
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 legislature should do what is necessary to fulfill the obligations that have been bargained for and earned by public sector employees. Re-amortization of the state's pension debt is a worthwhile discussion as it is constitutionally sound. It arguably prevents Illinois from having to cut core services drastically. However, new and sustainable sources of revenue must be identified so that the state can make the level-dollar annual payment.
Should all new state workers be moved into defined contribution plans?
I do not agree that all new state workers should mandatorily have defined contribution plans. If there is discussion on the matter it should include the bargaining units and labor leaders for the public sector employees who have unionized. Mandating without discussion, input and feedback does not seem to be realistic option.
What should the governor do to control pension costs during union contract talks? What would you do?
I cannot say what the governor should do besides have an open mind as to where there are opportunities for compromise. If it were me I would start with the end goal in mind. The goal is to reach an agreement that keeps people working and providing vital services throughout the state. Next, I would listen for the purpose of understanding the issues and I would work diligently to see where we can agree as I think that is more effective than trying to impose my will. Lastly, I would take the approach of looking at the discussions with a lens for the long-term rather than small and quick victories for an election cycle or two.
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?
I believe an overall frustration regarding the state's past and current policies are primary contributor to the exodus.
What should Illinois do — via tax policy, spending or other policy means — to keep residents from leaving?
We should acknowledge that there are issues that have compiled over the years. We should be honest about the fact that if we fail to plan accordingly we will leave Illinois a far less attractive state for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Something must be done to at a minimum keep the residents we have from leaving while attracting others to Illinois.
We should explore where there is waste and eliminate it. We should cut spending without sacrificing core services. While we ultimately need new revenue (taxes) we have to be good stewards of the revenue and be responsible in making payments for our debt rather than allowing it to continually balloon. Generating more revenue without direction as to how that new revenue fits into an overall plan to get our state on the path to continued solvency is futile.
What should Illinois do to promote job creation?
Illinois should focus on more than the once-in-a-generation opportunities like massive retailers. We should a focus on small businesses that generate significant revenue, hire locally and provide unique opportunities for individuals to develop more marketable skillsets quicker than some larger entities. Illinois also needs to remove some of the regulation and barriers to licensing for all residents. More specifically, Illinois has to have a focus on ensuring those who have paid their debt to society are able to reintegrate into society with an opportunity to be gainfully employed. This reduces recidivism which has a correlation with job creation and opportunities.
Did you support the education funding reform bill that the governor signed in 2017?
I support the education funding reform bill signed in 2017 despite its imperfection. It is undeniably more equitable than how schools were funded in the past. The fact that Chicago's pensions will be covered by the state like every other public school district is important.
What, if anything, should the legislature do to help Chicago Public Schools?
The legislature should work to fully fund Chicago Public Schools. It should recognize given the unique characteristics of the size of the district as well as the issues many students face requires some focused attention and significant resources. CPS has 371,382 students and 77.7% are economically disadvantaged students, 18% are English Language Learners and 13.7% have IEPs. It takes commitment to fully funding the schools and providing paraprofessionals, social workers, librarians, nurses, etc. to assist teachers and administration.
Do you support opportunity scholarships included in the funding reform bill? Or will you try, if elected, to eliminate that program?
I support educating all children in Illinois from the earliest possible age with adequately funded, schools with the proper resources to meet the needs of those students. My preference is that every student have the ability to look outside of his or her door and to be able to see and attend a great public, local, neighborhood school. For many students that is not an option. They do not get to choose where they live and for many parents their options for schools are limited due to their socioeconomic status.
The bill was part of a package which overhauled how schools are funded in Illinois and provides far more equity in funding. It was not a stand-alone bill. Therefore, I would have supported it. The program is a pilot program which automatically ends. Working to immediately eliminate the program might cause more uncertainty and unintended consequences. Would the state next try to eliminate its funding for low-income college students — some of whom attend private and parochial institutions?
Should Illinois do more to regulate campaign fundraising? If so, what?
I think there are more pressing issues at this time.
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 to date. This campaign is about my doing the hard work and knocking on doors to meet and hear from residents of the district.
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?
I do not support blanket term limits.
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 am committed to look at how the process can be improved and if that generates legislation yes I would commit to work to bring it to fruition.
Tell us a little about your family.
I have a brilliant, trailblazing four-year-old daughter.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
I co-founded the state's first African-American owned and licensed brewery.