Democratic candidate for Illinois House (28th district)
Responses to our questions
Why do you think it has been so difficult for Springfield to get a balanced budget passed and signed?
I do not believe that enough lawmakers have truly made a balanced budget their priority. Some may lack the courage to say no to spending that is not affordable. There is an element of wishful thinking in spending money that is not accounted for in income.
Do you believe the state budget can be balanced going forward without new sources of revenue?
That may take several budget cycles, and it will take creative thinking, but I believe it can be done.
What new sources, if any, would you support? Please be specific.
Illinois is a leader in renewable energy, environmental restoration, and agriculture. Focusing on these strengths can save money and generate new industries.
Do you support a constitutional amendment favoring a graduated income tax? Please explain.
This amendment has not gained enough support from voters and legislators in the past. Many people are wary of amending our constitution. A graduated income tax could benefit average taxpayers, however it would have to be structured fairly for all.
Please list five areas where you would cut spending.
Illinois is famous for having more layers of government that any state. This creates considerable overlap in services and excess government spending. It will take a new level of political commitment to cut into these layers and free up dollars.
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?
Lawmakers in Illinois failed to adequately contribute to pension funds for many decades. Teachers and other workers paid their fair shares into their retirement and must receive what they are owed. This is not an unmanageable problem. There are entire nations with a GDP similar to Illinois, and they managed to fix their deficits after such events as the 2008 crash. Illinois is a wealthy, strong state. We can fix this.
Should all new state workers be moved into defined contribution plans?
That is one possible solution that can be studied. However, we see that many US workers with such plans are not able to contribute at a level that ensures financial well being in their retirement. New hybrid programs seem promising.
What should the governor do to control pension costs during union contract talks? What would you do?
In my experience, teachers have been very willing to cooperate. They are generous public servants. When both sides come to the table with the intention to serve the needs of everyone, a win-win solution emerges. It is important to engage with a spirit of mutual benefit.
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?
In the same years we have lost residents, states with warmer climates have gained residents. The impact of baby boomer retirees is felt throughout our economy. Meanwhile, manufacturing industry jobs have declined. Now we need to look at low environmental impact industries. Illinois will continue to lead in areas of technology, medicine, agriculture, finance, and environment and a balance will be achieved.
What should Illinois do — via tax policy, spending or other policy means — to keep residents from leaving?
Promote growth in areas that make us strong -- agriculture, technology, medicine, finance, and environmental restoration.
What should Illinois do to promote job creation?
Continue growing our areas of strength -- agriculture, technology, medicine, finance, recreation, education, tourism, and environmental restoration.
Did you support the education funding reform bill that the governor signed in 2017?
My union, the IEA said that the bill "takes money away from public education and gives it to wealthy tax donors through a personal tax break in the same bill that finally provides fair funding to Illinois schools — and there is no funding set aside for this voucher program."
What, if anything, should the legislature do to help Chicago Public Schools?
Illinois has long had unequal school funding due to its heavy reliance on local property taxes. Unless that system is addressed, CPS schools as well as schools in lower income towns will continue to struggle.
Do you support opportunity scholarships included in the funding reform bill? Or will you try, if elected, to eliminate that program?
I do not expect to try to eliminate that program.
Should Illinois do more to regulate campaign fundraising? If so, what?
Our elections have equal or bigger problems than fundraising. Ballot access is hindered by unethical tactics such as putting up "ghost" candidates to confuse voters and challenging signatures on petitions in election court. We need more women and minorities in Illinois government. I want to see campaign regulations that support their efforts.
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 have not received any help from mainstream Democratic party leaders.
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?
Legal term limits sound good to people who are tired of machine politics. However, we already have a system of term limits -- it is called voting. Americans have a dismal record of voter turnout, especially in midterm and local elections. These elections are often ones that affect us most personally. Voters need to study the issues and go to the polls. When a man or woman takes on an elected position, it is like any job -- there is a lot to learn. We want people in office who have learned their job well. Some of our best leaders have been in office for many terms. We do not want to risk losing their expertise. We can vote them out if they do poorly.
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?
It is said that current gerrymandering allows office holders to pick their voters, instead of voters picking their office holders. My district 28 is so convoluted that it has no cohesive community. Some experts propose a bipartisan or nonpartisan committee to create districts. Some states have this. We need to explore these options.
Tell us a little about your family.
I come from a family of eight children, raised in the south suburbs of Chicago. In my large extended family, nearly all educational and professional levels are represented. I raised three daughters as a single mother, and encouraged their educational achievements. I currently serve as a junior high school Spanish teacher, and I have been an editor/writer/journalist in my career. I have owned a home in Blue Island for over 20 years.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
I read two to three books a week of biography, history, literary fiction, and more.