Democratic candidate for Illinois House (70th district)
Responses to our questions
Why do you think it has been so difficult for Springfield to get a balanced budget passed and signed?
Elected officials are too concerned with re-election. As such, they are too willing to cut taxes, and too unwilling to cut services. No one wants to step up and make necessary decisions if they're going to be unpopular.
Do you believe the state budget can be balanced going forward without new sources of revenue?
No. Not if we hope to maintain even the most basic minimum services. The budget crisis of the past couple of years, coupled with the slow recovery from the 2008 economic downturn have reduced most spending to the barest essentials, if that.
What new sources, if any, would you support? Please be specific.
I think we need to restructure our entire revenue stream - reduce our dependence on local property taxes for K12 education; institute a graduated income tax, look at a "LaSalle Street" tax, consider supporting a sales tax on non-essential services.
Do you support a constitutional amendment favoring a graduated income tax? Please explain.
Yes. Most states have such a tax. Those who make the most money using the facilities and services Illinois offers should help the most in maintaining, or even expanding, those facilities and services. Plus, it is much less burdensome on the wealthy to pay a higher percentage, than it is on those struggling at the lower end of the economic spectrum. As a matter of philosophy and economics, putting more money into the hands of the wealthy is not as good an investment as putting into the hands of the lower and middle classes. The wealthy will invest and spend a fair proportion of that money elsewhere, while the rest will, of necessity, be spending the money locally - a 100% return to the local economy. (And actually, when you consider that a dollar spent at a local grocery store will then get spent at a local shop, and then a local restaurant, etc. the return is actually much greater than 100%).
Please list five areas where you would cut spending.
I think we could save some money by consolidating some of our forms of local government. Administrative bloat in state institutions (such as state agencies and universities) should be cut. Some of this bloat is due to increased accountability requirements mandated by Springfield. We should reexamine how much we really need in that regard. Other admin bloat is due to the hiring being controlled by administrators who see a need for more help, often at the expense of those who actually carry out the mission of the institution.
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?
First, it is necessary to point out that the pension crisis is due not to excessive benefits, but rather to the state's failure to pay its share into the system. For the past 70 years or so, the state has shorted the pension system by an average of about 30%. Had those payments been made is required, the pension system would be quite healthy today. To fix the system solely on the backs of the participants, who have made every payment required, would be unjust, and a breach of contract, properly prohibited by the Illinois Constitution and, I believe, the contracts clause of Article I of the US Constitution Thus, the only way to "control" costs would be to create new tiers for new hires that diminish their future benefits, as was done in 2010 and again last year. The issue with this is that it impairs the ability of the State to make quality hires, especially as downward salary pressures continue.
Should all new state workers be moved into defined contribution plans?
No. They should be given the choice. Or the State could give up running its own pension systems and put state workers into the Social Security system. Of course then the State would HAVE to make its payments into the system.
What should the governor do to control pension costs during union contract talks? What would you do?
Work with the unions and employing agencies to reach solutions all sides can live with. I think most people are reasonable, and see that there is a problem that needs to be addressed, and may well be willing to sacrifice, if the pain is shared by all parties. The problem with the last "reform" was that it was only the workers who were asked to give up anything. One reform that might make some sense would be to have the employing agencies responsible for paying out annuities (but of course, the State would have to factor those payments into the agency budgets). This would help cut down the small amount of abuse in the pension system.
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?
Uncertainty. When we go two years without a budget, people lose faith that the State will provide necessary facilities and services. For example, we saw a net outflow of 18000 university students a year, in large measure because students were unsure that schools would remain open for the four years of their academic careers.
What should Illinois do — via tax policy, spending or other policy means — to keep residents from leaving?
Obviously we need to quit playing chicken with the budget. Real people get hurt, and we create inexcusable uncertainty. But I sense that you're really looking for a choice between cutting taxes or increasing services. In that case, I come down on the side of the latter. Tax levels are, in my opinion, only one factor in the decision of where to locate. Other, more important factors include the quality of infrastructure, the quality of the workforce, the overall economic climate, quality of life, and so on. Illinois has much to offer in these areas, especially with the cultural and economic engine of Chicago, and it would really be a shame to diminish that in the name of lowering taxes.
What should Illinois do to promote job creation?
Clearly, we want to attract companies that will provide good jobs to Illinois. We do that by creating a strong business climate: invest in infrastructure - roads, bridges, internet, communications, and most importantly, people. We need to reverse the trend of disinvesting in education, so that we have a workforce that will attract those good jobs.
Did you support the education funding reform bill that the governor signed in 2017?
Mostly, yes. I disagree with the $75 million to private schools, but that was a small price to pay to finally get something passed.
What, if anything, should the legislature do to help Chicago Public Schools?
Given that Chicago receives, I believe, less than 80¢ for every dollar it sends to Springfield. It seems to me that the legislature could provide more financial help to the CPS. Given the large student population, and the large at-risk student population, I don't think this would be unwarranted.
Do you support opportunity scholarships included in the funding reform bill? Or will you try, if elected, to eliminate that program?
I am not in favor of programs that take money from the public education system. Private schools are free to choose which students to take, and the result will be that the public schools will be left with the hardest-to-educate students decreasing funding. That's a bad combination for a society that feels everyone should be given a real chance to succeed and become productive members.
Should Illinois do more to regulate campaign fundraising? If so, what?
Yes. I'd like to see local funding of campaigns; i.e., all (or at least most) of the money raised for a particular race should come from the race's district. Each district should be allowed to pick its representatives without undue influences of outside interests.
What help, if any, are you receiving from your party and its leaders, including staff help, advice, legal assistance, money and resources? Be specific.
So far, I've gotten a little help with the petition filing phase of the campaign. The state party provided a petition form (from which I had copies made), and they looked over the final petition packet to check for any obvious errors. They also gave me the addresses of the Secretary of State's office and Board of Elections in Springfield, so I could file all the paperwork. I suppose there may be other assistance down the road, but no mention has been made of that at this point.
If you are an incumbent, give an example of a time you worked across the aisle on an important issue.
On the DeKalb County Board, I suggested, and ultimately got passed a "proportional committee" rule. The number of committees controlled by each party is based on the party's representation on the board, rather than being allowed by the majority party (which often meant the majority party controlled all the committees).
If you are an incumbent, give at least one example of a time you did not vote with your party on a significant issue.
Again, on the County Board, we had a request from a resident to operate a gun shop. Most Democrats were against the idea, but since the request didn't violate any existing ordinances, I voted in favor of the request.
Do you support term limits? If so, will you commit to sponsoring legislation and/or lobbying your colleagues on behalf of a constitutional change?
For leadership, yes, but not in general. Term limits already exist - they're called "elections". What a mandatory limit really means is "I don't like that your district keeps electing someone I don't approve of". Again, each district should decide for themselves who their representative should be.
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?
Yes. Redistricting should be done without regard to partisan advantage. Using power to maintain power is anti-democratic. I would enthusiastically sponsor legislation and/or lobby my colleagues to change the constitution in this regard.
Tell us a little about your family.
I am divorced, never remarried, and have no children.
Tell us something about you that might surprise us.
I have six toes on each foot. (That's NOT true, but I bet it surprised you!) This is tough, since I don't know what your expectations of me are to begin with (hence the above joke). But, fixating on physical attributes at the moment, I'm only 5'4" tall.