Iris J. Millan
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?
Because of Bruce Rauner. Illinois had 5 governors before him, three of which were Republicans and many Democrats in the legislature. Yet this is the first time a budget couldn't be passed? The blame falls on him.
Do you believe the state budget can be balanced going forward without new sources of revenue?
No, there is a structural imbalance from making required pension payments and digging out of the mess from the past few years.
What new sources, if any, would you support? Please be specific.
A progressive income tax, as well as a sensible service tax that would open up an opportunity to tax luxury items and services; such as spa packages and yachts.
Do you support a constitutional amendment favoring a graduated income tax? Please explain.
Yes, as stated. There are only 10 states in the country that still use flat taxes when there is enormous diversity in the income profiles of Americans. There's no reason that a bit more can be asked of those who have been fortunate in life and can afford to help their fellow Illinois citizens.
Please list five areas where you would cut spending.
I don't think the premise of this question is attuned to the reality of Illinois. Yes, there's a million here and a million there that is needlessly spent, but Illinois ranks 37th in per capita spending according to the 2015 data from the Kaiser Foundation. The notion that we have some out of control spending problem is false. That said, we have to make reasonable changes to our pension system that the pensioners support. We cannot go back on promises made without consent.
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?
Illinois made a promise to its workers to compensate their hard work with a livable pension, and failed to do that. Instead, government misused pension benefits, leaving people whom had worked arduously for their hard-earned benefits with nothing. Illinois needs a responsible pension system that is protected from ever being used as a credit card again. We have to go to the workers and win their trust to promote reforms. And, we have to give something in exchange for it, just like any bargain requires. We cannot expect promises to be made to workers, promises revoked, and then expect a robust, motivated work force. We also have to be realistic that business accounting principles don't apply to governments and that the ramp we are currently on can be adjusted to provide budgetary relief to Illinois while we work on reforms.
Should all new state workers be moved into defined contribution plans?
No. According to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, only about a third of workers are saving in a 401(k) or similar tax-deferred retirement plan. There are lower costs to defined contribution plans in current data because the plans are not producing enough to guarantee retirement for Americans. Why would we do that to workers in Illinois when a lifetime of public service should provide retirement security, not insecurity.
What should the governor do to control pension costs during union contract talks? What would you do?
Illinois' next Governor will have a productive relationship with organized labor and collective bargaining should produce the changes both sides desire.
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?
The average temperature being -5 degrees for a week certainly doesn't help. My family came here from Mexico for opportunity and the incessant attacks on families like mine by political figures in this country have had the desired effect of making it difficult to immigrate to the United States. That hurts population growth in a state like Illinois which has historically welcomed immigrants. The political chaos caused by Bruce Rauner contributes to this mess, but I don't believe ordinary people factor in political leadership when deciding where to raise their families. They want job opportunities, good communities, great schools and a fair shake. That's what we have to provide.
What should Illinois do — via tax policy, spending or other policy means — to keep residents from leaving?
If we have the best school system in the country, people will crawl over themselves to move here. We have to invest in our schools and make it a great deal to have your child learn in Illinois.
What should Illinois do to promote job creation?
Clean energy is the absolute clearest path to the future. Every community needs cheap energy sources and retrofits to conserve it and every community supports pitching in to prevent our children and grandchildren from having to suffer under a changed climate.
Did you support the education funding reform bill that the governor signed in 2017?
I'm glad that the school formula was revamped, but I would have liked to see more investment in schools. Again, a progressive income tax would be welcome to bring in additional revenue.
What, if anything, should the legislature do to help Chicago Public Schools?
We should not have to pay for our teacher's pensions and the State's, so the pension pick up provision should be included.
Do you support opportunity scholarships included in the funding reform bill? Or will you try, if elected, to eliminate that program?
No, I do not support school vouchers.
Should Illinois do more to regulate campaign fundraising? If so, what?
Yes, I support full public financing in campaigns where low dollar donors can win public funds if contribution levels are reached. I also believe a more robust and strict cap system should be in place as the current system is too easy to bypass.
What help, if any, are you receiving from your party and its leaders, including staff help, advice, legal assistance, money and resources? Be specific.
This is a primary, so leadership isn't involved.
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, the voters are the ones who can exercise term limits by voting candidates out.
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 support such a change on a national basis if the Supreme Court produced a standard to determine improper political influence.
Tell us a little about your family.
My parents emigrated from Mexico to Chicago in the 80s, and I was fortunate enough to join them in the early 90s. I was afforded the opportunity to become a Permanent Legal Resident, and a Citizen of the US — an opportunity that I don't plan to take for granted. Today, I live in the Humboldt Park community with my partner and our two children.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
Many have told me that they are surprised to learn about my diverse career background and my ability to bring those experiences together.