Democratic candidate for Illinois Senate (27th district)
Responses to our questions
Why do you think it has been so difficult for Springfield to get a balanced budget passed and signed?
First, the size of the state's debt is a huge obstacle to reaching a balanced budget. But even this can be overcome with a well thought out, long-term approach.
The main obstacle to this is the role that huge amounts of money, controlled by wealthy people like Gov. Rauner now plays in our political system. This was unleashed by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United and it's a deterrent to compromise in many ways. After Republican and Democratic senate leaders worked hard to forge a budget compromise that had bi-partisan support, Gov. Rauner kept it from passing by keeping all senate Republicans from supporting it. The inference was that if they did, he would either withhold necessary campaign money from his substantial war chest or fund primary challengers to defeat them. When my own GOP Representative voted to override the governor's veto of the budget, a heavily financed right-wing group headed by Dan Proft found a candidate to run against him. The wielding of large amounts of money discourages compromise and chases reasonable people out the legislature.
Do you believe the state budget can be balanced going forward without new sources of revenue?
No. Some new revenue is necessary for a holistic approach to balancing the budget.
What new sources, if any, would you support? Please be specific.
I could be supportive of any of the following if they are implemented correctly: a progressive income tax, financial transaction tax, the legalization and taxing of recreational marijuana, and a tax on luxury services. There may be others that I would consider, but I oppose any that would make our tax system more regressive than it already is.
Do you support a constitutional amendment favoring a graduated income tax? Please explain.
Yes. The flat tax required by our current constitution is obsolete and not suited to a modern economy. It's also unfair to those on the lowest rungs of the income ladder. Most states and the federal government have a graduated income tax for this reason, and much of Illinois' current fiscal problems are due to the fact that our flat tax rate was kept so low (among the lowest in the nation) for so long while the state was not making its pension payments and the very wealthy in this state were not paying their fair share.
Please list five areas where you would cut spending.
I would consider supporting spending cuts that didn't hurt the most vulnerable people in our state: children, the elderly, those who are disabled, and the poor.
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 state should reamortize its pension debt in a fashion like that proposed by the Center for Budget and Tax Accountability.
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?
The governor should seek some help in effective negotiating tactics. To control pension costs in future contracts you have to be an effective negotiator and steer future wage and benefit increases away from pensions.
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 number 1 reason is the failure of Gov. Rauner to negotiate a budget compromise, keep vital services and higher education funded, and demonstrate to prospective employers that his government will do it's part to nurture a just, stable economy in which businesses can thrive.
What should Illinois do — via tax policy, spending or other policy means — to keep residents from leaving?
We must adopt a FAIR income tax system so that the very wealthy in IL are paying their fair share of the burden. We should implement a long-term plan to pay down debt, maintain infrastructure, and invest in our public education system- pre-K through college- so that we have an educated work force. Much of the population loss has been college-age students, like my own children who have chosen to attend college out of state because we have allowed our state university system to be crippled by the budget impasse. Once these talented young people leave Illinois, it is unlikely they will return. Legalizing recreational marijuana could unleash an economic boom like it has in Colorado, where many of our young people have chosen to relocate. As the state generates more revenue, we can begin to invest more in our local communities and reform the property tax system to relieve homeowners of the substantial burden they now carry.
What should Illinois do to promote job creation?
My answer above is also the answer to job creation. By investing in infrastructure, public education and our local communities, we create a stable environment where businesses can thrive with an educated workforce, and a place where their employees will want to live and raise families.
Did you support the education funding reform bill that the governor signed in 2017?
I do not support using tax money to subsidize tuition at private/religious schools. It's disingenuous for our leaders to tell us for years that we are too broke to fund public schools properly and then, at the eleventh hour, to thrown in a $100 million in tax breaks for their rich friends to fund private school tuition.
What, if anything, should the legislature do to help Chicago Public Schools?
The legislature should pay a share of CPS pensions just as it does for every other school district in the state.
Do you support opportunity scholarships included in the funding reform bill? Or will you try, if elected, to eliminate that program?
I would support de-funding or eliminating this tax break for the rich. It takes the tax money of regular, hardworking citizens, and instead of using it to fund public schools, gives it away to private schools and their wealthy donors.
Should Illinois do more to regulate campaign fundraising? If so, what?
Illinois should adopt a public financing model for its campaigns. I'd support something similar to the plan Daniel Biss has proposed. This plan is used for elections in New York City. https://www.danielbiss.com/campaign-finance-reform/
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 received some assistance from the state senate Democratic office in preparing my petitions when I filed to be on the ballot.
If you are an incumbent, give an example of a time you worked across the aisle on an important issue.
I'm 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.
I'm 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. We have elections every two years and it is the responsibility of voters to show up and vote if they are unhappy with the incumbent. Term limits would only further limit the options that voters have. The way to level the playing field for new candidates, is to adopt campaign finance reform so that incumbents do not have an insurmountable advantage when it comes to fundraising. Term limits does not address this underlying cause of the problem and would only create a gold-plated revolving door in Springfield for candidates representing the very wealthy and their 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 do support reforms to the redistricting process to remove partisanship from the process. It has been effective in California and their system may be a good one to consider.
Tell us a little about your family.
I am one of seven siblings raised on the NW side of Chicago by my father, a Chicago Fire Fighter and my mother, a registered nurse. I raised my own son and daughter in Mt. Prospect, IL. Both are now grown. My son moved to Denver, CO in search of better opportunities. My daughter remains in the Chicago area.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
As the President of Mt. Prospect School District 57 I have negotiated two contracts with our teachers' union. As a member of the Chicago Federation of Musicians I have served on committees for two contract negotiations with the producers that bring Broadway musicals to Chicago. My unique experience of sitting on both the management AND the employee side of contract negotiations gives me a unique perspective on resolving differences. It has reinforced my belief that the collective bargaining process is truly the best and most democratic way to reach agreement and fair contracts, when both parties respect the process and view the other side as equal partners. This benefits the taxpayers, all stakeholders, and the community as a whole. My experience has given me many of the skills I will need to work with Republicans to find common ground and forge solutions that will serve the best interest of our great state.