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Jeanne Ives

Republican candidate for Governor

Jeanne Ives

Jeanne Ives

Republican candidate for Governor

Running mate
Rich Morthland
Bachelor of Science, Economics United State Military Academy
State Representative, State of Illinois

Responses to our questions

Illinois lost more residents than any other state in 2016, according to U.S. Census data, and the trend appears to be continuing for 2017. What do you believe is the No. 1 reason for the exodus? What do you believe a governor can do to reverse the pattern?

As if in tribute to Illinois native Bill Murray's film, Groundhog Day, the Chicago Tribune has had to repeat the same — or nearly same policy questions — in each of the last three election cycles. It is a commentary on the fact that — despite the alarm being sounded every cycle — nothing in Illinois changes.

The state's political ruling class has failed to address our most daunting problems (despite years of compelling, and informed Tribune editorials.) So, what's changed? After three and a half years of Governor Rauner, our financial crisis is even more urgent, leaving no room for partial solutions or weak endeavors. I believe voters are, finally, ready for a policy revolt in state government. I am the only candidate in this race with the credibility to lead it.

The reason people are leaving? Too many Illinoisans no longer see a bright future for themselves and their families in Illinois. It's become too expensive to live in Illinois. Many Illinoisans are now paying property tax bills that are bigger than their mortgage payments. People also can't find enough good paying jobs. The state has lost over 300,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000. Disappearing working- and middle-class jobs means too many people can't afford a down payment on a home, provide for a college education or save for retirement. Other families, struggling with incomes that haven't kept up with inflation, simply can't make ends meet.

And too many of Illinois' governments are corrupt. Illinoisans have lost faith in their leaders — they are too self-serving and too wedded to special interests to care about the residents they are supposed to serve. Illinoisans collective vote of no confidence is why nearly every conversation with ordinary voters ends with them laying out their exit strategy from Illinois. Illinoisans are leaving because they have no faith that political leaders will reverse course.

As Governor, the most difficult thing to do is turn around public sentiment. And right now, Illinois families are borderline despondent about the direction of this state and our ability to course correct. There is no bigger indictment of the failures and betrayals of the political ruling class in Chicago and in Illinois than the fact that half the people here say they want to leave and 85%+ say Illinois is headed in the wrong direction.

We either get serious about structural reform of a state government that is not financeable in its current form--systemic change--or we will feed the fatalism that quickens Illinois' economic death spiral with businesses and families continuing to depart. It is time to completely rethink, re-engineeer and reintroduce a state government keeps its promises, balances its books, focuses on its core responsibilities in terms of the provision of services and the setting of the rules of the game. Illinoisans have a choice. They can stick with the same politics that's failed them again and again. Or they can make a change. I represent that change. I'll be a champion for Illinoisans and their communities.

If elected, what specific policy changes would you enact to improve the economic climate of Illinois? Please outline your position on the use of tax incentives and give-backs to attract businesses to Illinois? Do you support the expansion of existing taxes (sales, income, gasoline) or the enactment of new taxes to increase state revenue?

My policy platform will be centered around three pillars needed to make Illinois grow again: more jobs, lower tax burdens and less corruption. Illinoisans will only prosper when those issues no longer drag down the budget and the economy. Those issues are all intertwined.

Illinois can't have robust job growth when pension costs and debts crowd out the private sector. Consumers can't save and companies can't invest when they are sapped by higher and higher tax burdens. And investors inside and outside of Illinois note our corruption and — not wanting to be taken advantage of — avoid the state.

Jobs, tax burdens and corruption all have to be tackled at once if Illinois is to grow again. That why my holistic approach will differ markedly from Rauner's and Madigan's. During the budget impasse, Madigan refused to negotiate "economic reforms" with Gov. Rauner and blamed the governor for holding the budget hostage to an economic agenda — as if they weren't related. Governor Rauner, on the other hand, called his own economic agenda paramount and he was willing to accept a budget with punishing tax hikes to get it. Both approaches are fundamentally flawed. The budget and the economy both matter. Lawmakers shouldn't sacrifice one for the other. Illinois needs a holistic set of policies that will transform both the economy and the budget.

Every good economic and government policy change that would salvage businesses and attract more have been filed in bills over and over again. Winning legislatively requires the Governor to lead the revolt and work tirelessly to convince the majority of Illinoisans that it is in everyone's best interest to enact major reforms. The Governor must set out the vision and goals of a new Illinois economy and connect the dots for voters to the choices before us as a state.

Illinois can no longer afford to be a fiscal outlier and among the top 5 worst places to locate a business year after year. Championing reform around the state is essential to creating the legislative pressure to get it done. I am not afraid to have the difficult conversations we must have to move this state forward. From pension reform to debt restructuring, I have already set myself apart as a leader on the important issues of the day.

Where do you stand on a graduated income tax?

I strongly and unequivocally oppose a graduated tax structure. The many failed policies of this state — high taxes among them — have already led to a major erosion of our tax base. More than 600,000 net Illinoisans have fled to other states since 2010, according to the IRS. All those residents have taken billions in income with them, draining the state's tax base. The IRS data also shows that Illinois is bleeding its more-productive residents.

The incomes of those that left the state in 2014 were, on average, $20,000 higher compared to those coming into the state. Chicago topped the list of US cities that millionaires are fleeing. Those with the most wealth also have the most ability to relocate. Furthermore, Illinois has higher property tax burden than every other state with no income tax which implies that our government costs are the problem and not our income tax structure. Illinois' flat income tax structure is the one bright spot in a terribly burdensome tax code. Illinois needs to welcome its entrepreneurs, small business owners and job creators, not punish them even more.

The next governor will face significant challenges balancing the state budget. If the legislature sends an unbalanced budget, what will you do? If the budget requires cutting, where would you cut? Please be specific.

As governor I will fulfill my constitutional duties to submit a balanced budget to the legislature. I will champion the reforms necessary to make sure the state's expenditures match the state's revenues. And I will be ready to cooperate with the legislature to craft a budget that meets the needs of Illinoisans so long as it does not rely on additional taxes. But if the legislature ultimately sends me an unbalanced budget, I will veto it.

Just as the governor has the duty to recommend a balanced budget to the legislature, the legislature also has the constitutional duty to pass a budget where spending does not exceed revenues. Bruce Rauner never had the courage to send a balanced budget to the legislature. He shirked his responsibility. And for nearly two decades, the legislature under Mike Madigan has passed failed, unbalanced budgets. That has to end. I promise that I will hold the legislature accountable to their constitutional requirement. Any budget sent from the legislature that is not balanced and does not include enough surplus to accommodate for unforeseen exigencies will be vetoed using the full authority granted to the Governor. .

Can Illinois balance its budget without RAISING taxes?

Yes, lawmakers can and must balance the state budget without raising taxes. In fact, they have a moral imperative to do so. Politicians only want more tax hikes so they can avoid politically difficult spending reforms.

It's been far easier for politicians to raid taxpayer wallets than to fix pensions, streamline Medicaid, or consolidate duplicative governments. The pressure to reform disappears every time new money fills the state's coffers. The results of the 2011 tax increase proved that. Lawmakers promised a tax hike would fix Illinois' problems. But 90 percent of the new tax revenues were consumed by pensions. Nothing was reformed and Illinois problems worsened.

Residents' wallets are being treated the same way today. Illinois politicians — including Governor Rauner — got the massive, 32-percent tax hike they wanted last year. But they've already spent that money and more. The state expects a $3 billion year deficit next year despite $5 billion in new income tax revenues. More taxes cannot fix a state whose fundamental problem has been spending more than its people can afford, year after year.

What do you propose as a solution to the state's $130 billion unfunded pension liability?

As governor, I will lead the charge to: 1. Pass a constitutional amendment to change the pension protection clause of the state constitution. Going forward, pension benefits for services not yet delivered by government workers should be changeable. 2. Require all new hires to enter into a 401(k)-style self-managed plan. Lawmakers need not craft a new, untested 401(k)-style plan. Instead, they can simply expand the State Universities Retirement System's Self-Managed Plan to all state workers. The SURS SMP is a 401(k)-style plan that's been operating for nearly 20 years and is used by over 20,000 SURS members. 3. Re-negotiate pension obligations with current workers and retirees. Many pension plans will either be insolvent or require confiscatory taxes that cannot realistically be paid. We must have an honest conversation — as Rhode Island politicians had with their pensioners — in order to solve this problem once and for all. In addition, I won't stand by and watch the retirement security of local police and firefighters erode just as it has for public workers at the state level. Individual cities must have the right to choose the retirement plan they offer their public safety and municipal workers, whether it's a pension, a 401(k)-style plan, or another option. Unfortunately, reforms may come too late to save the finances of deeply indebted cities with near-insolvent pension funds. Those communities will not survive unless they are given a chance to reorganize their debts. I will promote a bankruptcy option for those cities as part of my reform package. In short, when the first pension fund fails, this will resolve itself more quickly —and there are funds on track to be insolvent in less than 10 years.

What if anything should state government do to address rising property taxes?

Illinoisans unquestionably need immediate relief from the highest property taxes in the nation. The state's average property tax rate, at 2.67 percent, is three times higher than Indiana's (0.88 percent) and twice as high as Missouri's (1.26 percent), according to Corelogic. The only solution to persistent high property taxes is to institute a hard cap as a percentage of home value. A levy freeze, which is the only property tax freeze that has been discussed in Springfield, is not a freeze for an individual home owner.

A property tax cap, such as Indiana has, is the only real way to keep housing affordable. In order to institute a tax cap four things must happen: the government must reduce spending by addressing the cost drivers of local spending, the state must become the primary funder of education, across the state we must reduce the number of taxing bodies and distortions (TIFs, exemptions) in our property valuation system, and we must align local accountability and costs (shift pensions, collective bargaining reform).

Some of the above are not new ideas. Voters must be presented the alternatives to not solving this crisis so they clearly see the choices before them. Fortunately, lawmakers who represent Chicago will be eager for reform once they realize their pension costs at the local level will eat up 25% of the budget by 2023. Any attempt to increase taxes enough to make that payment and the ensuing revolt will make the Cook County soda tax skirmish look like a walk in Grant Park.

Do you support or oppose banning elected officials from serving as property tax lawyers?

I fully support banning elected politicians from serving as property tax lawyers. As the recent report by the Tribune and Propublica shows, the property tax system in Cook County and beyond is a tool used by politicians to curry favor and power with special interests. Property taxes are the single-largest tax paid by Illinoisans. Illinoisans will pay approximately $30 billion in property taxes in 2018, compared to just $17 billion in net individual income taxes and $8 billion in net sales taxes. Yet this huge amount of money is assessed, collected and overseen by one of the most non-transparent and corrupt systems in the state.

Property owners everywhere — from residents to businesses — suffer from this unfair system. For example, I've helped expose how the Willis Tower in Chicago sold for $1.3 billion in 2015 even though it was assessed for tax purposes at only $535 million. Politicians like Mike Madigan and Chicago Ald. Burke shouldn't be able to legislate property tax rules then profit from them through their law firms. It's a clear conflict of interest, at a minimum.

What changes, if any, should be applied to Cook County's property tax system?

I have been working with Assessor Warren Dixon to bring the inequities in our Property Tax system to light for three years. The assessment system statewide is corrupt and mismanaged, but Cook County requires special attention. Cook County operates a completely different assessment system than the other 101 counties in the state. The county's entire property tax system needs to be redesigned from the ground up.

To that end, last year I proposed HJR69, a resolution to form the Taskforce on the Reform and Modernization of Cook County Assessment System. Thirty-one state legislators, representing both sides of the political aisle, supported this measure. Governor Rauner could have supported the creation of this bipartisan taskforce but decided to join Democratic leaders in sweeping my bill under the rug. As governor, I will lead on the issue of property tax reform. The creation of the property tax modernization taskforce will be one of my first priorities.

Have you ever appealed property taxes on any property you own? If so, what was the outcome?

I personally appealed our taxes twice. The first time in the mid-90s on our 2 bedroom, 1500 sq.ft ranch. I appealed directly to the county and won a small reduction. I simply filled out the paperwork and went before the board myself. The second time I appealed our taxes in 2009. Again, I did the appeal myself and went straight to the county for the appeal. We had just expanded our current home. The assessor had completely inaccurate information on the square footage, the value of the addition (I had all the receipts on the cost - real cost is a determinate in the valuation of new property), the amount of finished space and more. We received a reduction but it was still overvalued based on an independent appraisal.

Lawmakers passed, and Gov. Bruce Rauner signed, a school funding bill in 2017 that included a scholarship tax credit program, which offers a tax credit in exchange for scholarship donations to private schools. Do you support this program? If yes, how will you support its growth? If no, will you dismantle the program?

I support the expansion of school choice in Illinois. As governor, I would promote legislation that expands school choice to all Illinois children through the creation of education savings accounts. But while I do support the tax credit program, I voted against the education finance bill and the permanent bailout of Chicago Public Schools that went along with it.

To get that tax credit program, Governor Rauner sold out Illinoisans to bail out the failed leadership of CPS and its aggressive teachers union. Illinoisans will now be forced to pay for CPS' mismanagement, skipped pension payments, excessive borrowing and unaffordable teacher contracts. Worse, Rauner sold out all Illinoisans for a program that benefits less than half-of-one percent of the student population in Illinois. That's not fair to the many students and families that don't qualify for the tax credit scholarship.

All Illinois students deserve school choice. The hypocrisy on the topic from teacher unions and political leadership is outrageous. In one report nearly 40% of Chicago teachers elect to send their school aged children to private schools. Tribune's own analysis shows that inside CPS the majority of parents choose a school other than their neighborhood school.

Nearly 100% of the problems related to education can be solved by competition in the marketplace which is why school choice is the only answer to educational improvement. In 2017, I was the only House legislator to run a school choice bill outside the massive SB1 formula change. I have championed school choice legislation every year in office.

What is your position on charter schools?

Charter schools should be one of the many choices that parents have when looking for schools that best meet the individual needs of their child. But choice for families shouldn't be limited to just charters. Money should follow the child in Illinois whether it's for a public, private, charter or virtual school. As I said before, I'll champion school choice for each and every kid in Illinois.

Do you support an elected school board in Chicago? Please explain your answer.

I support an elected Chicago school board. I do understand, however, that CPS may not improve under such a board. As unfortunate as that would be, at least under an elected school board the blame and the solution can be directly put back onto the voters. For me, the ultimate solution is an expansion of school choice. Only when parents are empowered with school choice will we bring true accountability to Illinois education.

Tell us about your family.

My husband and I have been married for 30 years. We have lived in Wheaton for 26 years where we have raised our 5 children. Our oldest son is a US Army Infantry officer and Ranger qualified. Our second son is in training to be a Navy pilot. We have a son who is studying accounting at Ole Miss, a junior at Wheaton Warrenville South High School and an 8th Grade daughter at St. Michael Parish School.

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.

Candidate did not respond

Give us an example of a time you worked across the aisle or against your party on an issue.

Just this year I worked with Democrat Greg Harris to pass HB311, the Network Adequacy bill. I had initiated the bill a year prior after hearing from a constituent on the issue of inadequate health insurance coverage when contracts are voided. The bill became much more complex and Rep. Harris took control to pass a far reaching bill affecting adequacy of networks around the state. I also worked with Rep. Thapedi to add a significant amendment to HB189 to protect condo owners in the case of forced sale. I was the only No vote on the sham bill HB189 that was suppose to provide property tax relief but did nothing but push costs around to others. My No vote was vindicated and the bill never made it through the Senate.

Where have you shown independence from your party?

I am running against my party's incumbent Governor - I think that shows independence.

Candidates for Governor