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Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz

Democratic candidate for Illinois House (17th district)

Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz

Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz

Democratic candidate for Illinois House (17th district)

BA Journalism, Indiana University; JD Loyola University Chicago School of Law; Master of Laws in International Human Rights, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
Past Political/Civic Experience
First time candidate.

Responses to our questions

Why do you think it has been so difficult for Springfield to get a balanced budget passed and signed?

The governor made it clear that he wouldn't compromise on a budget until a number of — often changing — demands were met, which the legislature, to varying degrees, attempted to meet. Government and legislating is about compromise, and when one side isn't willing to compromise or come to the table to negotiate in good faith, it is impossible to reach a solution.

Do you believe the state budget can be balanced going forward without new sources of revenue?

We first need a fair tax system that ensures that millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share and closes corporate tax loopholes for the most profitable companies. The budget should not be balanced on the backs of the middle-class and the most vulnerable.

What new sources, if any, would you support? Please be specific.

I support a fair tax system that ensures that millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share and closes corporate tax loopholes for the most profitable companies.

Do you support a constitutional amendment favoring a graduated income tax? Please explain.

Yes. I support a progressive income tax to ensure millionaires and billionaires are paying their fair share, while giving low and middle-income earners a break.

Please list five areas where you would cut spending.

Reducing taxpayer funded benefits for retired politicians including free health care for life. Cutting perks for legislators by reducing their legislative salaries and district budget allotments. Cut back on the state's vehicle fleet and look to replace some vehicles with more fuel-efficient cars to reduce overhead costs. Combine the offices of comptroller and treasurer. Review the state budget line by line to find areas of duplicative spending and reduce spending on bureaucracy.

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 Supreme Court's ruling would limit many of the proposals for reform that have been proposed. As a first step to stabilizing the pension system, the state must make its obligated pension payments on time and in full.

Should all new state workers be moved into defined contribution plans?


What should the governor do to control pension costs during union contract talks? What would you do?

Most things in government can only happen as a result of compromise. I would urge the governor to work with labor to preserve the benefits that people have earned and ensure that any changes to the pension system are not made on the back of middle-class families.

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 don't know that there is any simple, one sole reason for Illinois' population. What I do know is that the manufactured budget crisis of the last 2+ years has caused irreversible, long-term damage to our schools, universities, infrastructure, healthcare system, social service net and business environment.

What should Illinois do — via tax policy, spending or other policy means — to keep residents from leaving?

First and foremost, Illinois needs a budget every single year to provide stability to our schools, providers, employers and residents. The instability and lack of predictability has created an environment that makes it hard for businesses and some residents to justify staying here.

What should Illinois do to promote job creation?

Businesses need stability. They need to know that the state government will be able to pass a budget each year. We need to invest in the resources that job-creators value — quality education (at all levels, including higher education) to create a highly educated workforce, infrastructure that can safely move products and people, and human services for children and the elderly. I support reducing the tax burden on the small and medium-sized employers in our communities and ensuring that every corporation is paying something in taxes. I support expanding credits and incentives for businesses that choose to relocate to or expand in Illinois and create new, good-paying jobs in the state. I also support investment in green technology that will create jobs of the future.

Did you support the education funding reform bill that the governor signed in 2017?

I did not like everything that is contained in Senate Bill 1947, like the scholarship tax credit that I believe rewards the wealthiest donors who would qualify for the tax relief. I support reform that levels the playing field to ensure that every child has access to quality education and increases the state's investment in public schools, which should help to relieve the over-reliance on property taxes to fund schools.

What, if anything, should the legislature do to help Chicago Public Schools?

I don't think the legislature should show favoritism to any school, and should treat every child equally. Every single child in the State of Illinois should have access to a quality education, regardless of where they live or where they were born. First and foremost, we have to fund schools properly through the State of Illinois so school districts don't have to rely so heavily on local property taxes to fund the basic service of education.

Do you support opportunity scholarships included in the funding reform bill? Or will you try, if elected, to eliminate that program?

I don't support the scholarship tax credit portion of the funding reform bill.

Should Illinois do more to regulate campaign fundraising? If so, what?

Citizens United changed campaign finance forever. We need to reign in the influence of special interests who can keep their donors a secret while supporting or opposing candidates. Transparency is critical.

What help, if any, are you receiving from your party and its leaders, including staff help, advice, legal assistance, money and resources? Be specific.

I will be seeking and accepting assistance from all Democratic organizations, as a Democratic nominee for State Representative.

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?

In theory, I support term limits but I am concerned about only increasing the power of staff and lobbyists in the process, who are not subject to term limits, not accountable to the voters, and would have unprecedented power. I would rather see campaign finance reform that limits the influence of the special interests.

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 redistricting that are fair, transparent and bipartisan. Particularly as a biracial, Asian-American Jewish woman, it's important to me that the Voting Rights Act is upheld and that minority voices are preserved in any proposals to change the redistricting process.

Tell us a little about your family.

My paternal grandparents immigrated to the United States from China in the 1920's and, based solely on their nationality, were subject to deportation under the Chinese Exclusion Acts. Due to the assistance of a civil rights attorney, my grandparents were able to stay in the United States, become citizens, build their small business, and raise a family. My father is a retired college professor who was active in the civil rights movement, traveling to Arkansas and Mississippi to register voters in 1960. My mother was active in the women's movement, including the effort to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970's. My husband Mike and I have three sons who have graduated from or are attending Glenview public schools. We have lived in Glenview for 15 years and are involved members of our community and synagogue.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

I trained with the Joffrey Ballet.

Candidates for Illinois House (17th district)