Democratic candidate for Illinois House (70th district)
Responses to our questions
Why do you think it has been so difficult for Springfield to get a balanced budget passed and signed?
Illinois budgets, whether balanced or not, had been passed and signed through 2014. The election of Governor Rauner in 2014 established a set of conditions in which the governor's goals were out of alignment with those of the legislature. Rauner, thinking as may be expected from the head of a private equity firm, attempted to apply principles of successful private equity dealing in the realm of public service. Unfortunately, public service entities like the state of Illinois cannot divest themselves of financial loss centers or engage in tactics to drastically lower the pay of public servants.
Do you believe the state budget can be balanced going forward without new sources of revenue?
No. There are too many financial loss centers. Leaders within the state need to recognize that it is the state's obligation to provide services to its citizens although it balances the losses absorbed in doing so against revenue that it collects in the form of taxes.
What new sources, if any, would you support? Please be specific.
- Create the state's own health insurance company in the form of a public option. The purpose of this is to provide health care insurance without the executive pay and dividend payouts of private insurance companies. Money would be saved by a) operating with only a few administrative positions under state control, b) using economies of scale normally applied by insurance companies to control costs of medical services and pharmaceutical products.
- Money saved by the state's insurance company would be subtracted from money collected through premiums with the surplus used to pay down the state's debts over time.
- The state needs to form its own bank for the purpose of reducing banking costs associated with private banking such as executive pay and dividend payments. Normal charges for banking services collected through fees would be a source of revenue. The state bank would be enabled to make loans to citizens at a more favorable rate than they could obtain from current for-profit lending institutions. Money made through collected loan payments would be used to pay down state debts.
- The state needs to form its own financial services brokerage company that operates without high executive pay or bonuses and provides investment services to citizens of the state. Such a company would be able to issue bonds for state projects while controlling fees.
Do you support a constitutional amendment favoring a graduated income tax? Please explain.
Yes. There is no other form of taxation that does not increase prices for goods and services used by those at the lower end of the income scale.
Please list five areas where you would cut spending.
- Eliminate subsidies used to support the building or rental of stadiums or other facilities for privately owned sports teams.
- Reduction of overly generous executive compensation in higher education.
- Replacement of the state board of education with an elected board composed of persons who would be willing to serve in that position without pay.
- Gradually reduce end-of-career salary hikes by 1% per year per contract period. The gradual nature of this reduction is required to reduce pain associated with previous promises that these hikes would be paid.
- Allow individual state employees to voluntarily shift pension donations into self-managed plans. If there is enough saved from the state's contribution level through this, the state may offer matches to encourage employee savings.
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?
Allow individual state employees to voluntarily shift pension donations into self-managed plans
Should all new state workers be moved into defined contribution plans?
No, but the benefits to the newly hired workers of defined contributions should be made competitive with conventional pensions so that new state employees have a greater likelihood of selecting defined contributions as an option.
What should the governor do to control pension costs during union contract talks? What would you do?
If I were the governor and I sensed a need to be in negotiations with union representatives, the first thing I would do is reconsider the wisdom of my participation. After continuous efforts to break up unions, the governor has no credibility. The negotiations would be better served by having someone else in the negotiation room. In terms of an actual negotiation technique, I recommend that the governor begin by holding no secrets. Show the budget to the union reps and have them come up with proposals that do not break the budget. I would also try to insist that while negotiations are happening, the rank and file be frequently polled to assure that they are being adequately represented.
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?
Although the standard answer is that the high rates of taxes in Illinois led to the exodus, I find more people convinced that failure of the state to provide promised services is leading people to give up on the state. There was no exodus until the current governor took office. His use of the veto to have his way is a huge obstruction that makes life here less comfortable.
What should Illinois do — via tax policy, spending or other policy means — to keep residents from leaving?
Although this is the JOBS section of this questionnaire, it focuses on a perceived exodus of Illinois residents. It has not been demonstrated to me that the exodus is the problem. For all I know, those who are leaving may well have been a burden to the state. We have, just like many other states, many people who would like to hold onto more of the money that is taken from them through taxation. Some tax reform may be helpful, and I will consider tax changes that establish a graduated income tax and relieve the heavy burden of property taxes. I would sponsor a constitutional amendment that makes progressive income tax rates a part of the solution.
What should Illinois do to promote job creation?
In my earlier answer about revenue sources, I proposed the creation of a state health care insurance company, a state bank, and a state financial services agency. These would require employees which has a positive job-creation impact. But in addition, being able to make interest rates on borrowed money less than they are likely to be in private versions of these same organizations, industry would be encouraged by the lower cost of money so that they would choose to locate here and create opportunities for new employees.
Did you support the education funding reform bill that the governor signed in 2017?
I am in favor of a program that equalizes education funding among public schools by favoring the districts that have fewer funds available. There is a section that offers voucher money for use in private schools that I will seek to eliminate.
What, if anything, should the legislature do to help Chicago Public Schools?
Create several regional boards of education within the city with each board made up of volunteer elected individuals. Use such regional boards to replace the board of education. This program would help to make the regions responsive to the residents of the regions. There should be equity among the regions. I have seen too many instances of students riding CTA buses to schools with more than an hour to get to a school that is suitable. No student should have to travel more than ½ hour to get to or from school.
Do you support opportunity scholarships included in the funding reform bill? Or will you try, if elected, to eliminate that program?
I oppose the opportunity scholarships mentioned in SB0668 because the bill encourages transfer of public school funds to private schools. I would try to eliminate any program that transfers funds from public to non-public schools without an elected board of education having agreed upon the need for the expense to take place.
Should Illinois do more to regulate campaign fundraising? If so, what?
Illinois should do more to regulate campaign fundraising. Our present governor race in 2018 (as of the beginning of the year) has attracted multi-millionaire candidates in both parties. Our electoral system is biased in favor of wealthy candidates.
What we should do is to establish public funding of election activities and a rule that no other money be spent on campaigning. The reason for this is that, as things stand now, candidates have a task of winning an election and have resources that include their own personal fortunes to demonstrate their ability to achieve this goal. But the people that live here never get to see how candidates for office act when they are limited in their resources, as they will be when they get into office. I think that I echo a good deal of Illinois voters in saying that I want to see what candidates do when they are limited, as they ought to be when they are entrusted with spending other peoples' money.
What help, if any, are you receiving from your party and its leaders, including staff help, advice, legal assistance, money and resources? Be specific.
So far, I have received help with collecting signatures from the local democratic party. I am not receiving any other help and do not feel that candidates should seek help until after they have won primary elections. The relevant democratic party organization is neutral in primary races.
If you are an incumbent, give an example of a time you worked across the aisle on an important issue.
N/A. I am not an incumbent
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. I am not an incumbent
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 term limits for state legislators. I also do not support any increases of the salaries of legislators. They should be set once and then adjusted once every ten years. The reason that I feel this way is that freezing the salary creates opportunities for those who have been in office for multiple terms to develop the kinds of leadership skills that makes them sought after by private industry.
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 support changes to the redistricting process so that district boundaries are established by academics and mathematicians who create equal populations in, as far as possible, equal amounts of physical space. I would sponsor legislation that resulted in districts that were not gerrymandered into existence. The creation of the districts should not be limited in participation to only the two major political parties.
Tell us a little about your family.
My wife Barb and I live together with a thirteen-year-old adopted Shiba Inu named Bo in our home in DeKalb. We have not had or raised any children. We once said that we would try our hands with dogs and after we raised our first one, we realized that he was the spoiled brat that we wouldn't want a child to be. We also looked at our respective families and understood that they could not be readily counted on to help with raising children. Bo is the fifth dog that we have raised in our 40-year marriage. Our wedding took place in Waukegan and was witnessed by a judge and one other couple. We have supported each other through the earning of advanced college degrees including Barb's MFA and my Ph.D. At different times, each of us has been nominated for "teacher of the year."
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
I often perform at local coffeehouses and other events playing autoharp.