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EDITORIAL BOARD QUESTIONNAIRES

Willie Preston

Democratic candidate for Illinois House (31st district)

Willie Preston

Willie Preston

Democratic candidate for Illinois House (31st district)

Education
I attended Chicago State University and Roosevelt University
Occupation
I am carpenter by trade. However, I recently worked as a community organizer for SouthSiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (S.O.U.L.). I tendered my resignation to (SOUL) in order pursue the office for State Representative full time.
Home
Chicago
Past Political/Civic Experience
Community Representative for Scott Joplin Elementary School

Responses to our questions

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

It has been difficult for the State to balance their budgets simply because of the nature of the culture that exists in Springfield. Our General Assembly has both Republicans and Democrats; however there is NO difference when it comes to spending. Our State has been on an uncontrolled spending spree for at least a decade. The culture of tax and spend without spending cuts has resulted to the financial malfeasance that exists in Illinois

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

It would be extremely difficult to get a balanced budget without new revenues. Spending cuts are necessary, yet not enough to get the budget back under control. The costs incurred in running our government combined with our backlog of outstanding and unpaid bills owed to our vendors and pensioners are too high.

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

I am a strong advocate in generating new sources of revenue that do not adversely impact our residents and taxpayers. I am a strong supporter of a Financial Transaction Tax which places me in alignment with my opponent who sponsored HB 0106 3 years ago. However, since then she has been incapable of garnering support (NOT EVEN ONE CO-SPONSOR) and allowed this Bill to die in the Rules Committee last January (2017). This proves that whatever influence my opponent had has waned and her voice is no longer relevant in the General Assembly just as it is in our District. I will re-introduce a Financial Transaction Tax Bill and with my leadership, obtain co-sponsors, get it out of Committee and move it to the floor for a vote. With the amount of projected revenue raised from this ($10-12B), it is the single greatest way to jump starting the resolution to our fiscal crisis and save our state

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

I am going to wait until next year to fully answer the graduated income tax issue until I complete my review and wait until the 2018 tax filing season has completed to properly and responsibly assess the impact of the new Federal Tax Code recently passed by the Republicans so that I can determine the impact on our taxpayers, residents and businesses first. This way I will be able to make a responsible determination whether or not our citizens here in Illinois have been materially harmed or not, because if the fiscal reforms being sought by the Trump Administration result in increased job creation (specifically in the tech and manufacturing sectors) in Illinois then hopefully we'll see a rise in incomes at the lower and middle class economic brackets where a graduated income tax may at that point be an adverse impact on those very same middle income residents who were trying to help.

Please list five areas where you would cut spending.

The first area I would look to cut spending in is within our government. We have significant wasteful spending that requires a closer examination of where reductions can be made. For starters, I would look re-examine consolidating the Comptroller and Treasurers offices. Next, I would identify where reforms can be made in unfunded mandates that burden local governments. Additionally, taking a strong look and stand on ending administrative excesses in our State educational system (higher education) at our Universities and Colleges.

We have got to be honest and take a hard long look at why Democrats under the leadership of Mike Madigan and Cullerton fail to rein in spending, while Republicans are the ones with a reputation for slashing and burning. Democrats can be fiscally responsible as well, but it requires leadership with a dynamic vision who can reimagine a new paradigm in our State.

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 Pension Protection Clause cannot be violated. That is the primary issue in the ruling that I agree with. Our employees have worked too hard for that promise of COLAs to be terminated. Gov. Quinn took a big chance advocating for that and once employee unions sued, it was a rightful end to this issue. That being said, the costs carried with this are extremely high and further complicate the pension situation. This is a self-inflicted wound that our State has created with the only way to solve it is to generate more revenues. The IL Supreme Court has ruled and as such, there isn't much if anything that can be done besides responsible cuts elsewhere and new revenues.

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

A defined contribution plan (401K or 403B) is in many ways the model for public employees. Being aware that at the City level, new employees are offered an opportunity to enroll in both a City Pension and a 403B which is something that we can look at for State employees (and further rolling them off of a state pension plan system in lieu of). I am hopeful that they are looking at this now in the General Assembly.

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

Due to the 2015 ruling which reversed the action took by then Governor Quinn, the current Governor has a precedent before him that limits his influence in this area. I as a member of the House would first talk to the State employees in my District and hear what they have to say on the issue. This is missing right now as my opponent has not met with residents, stakeholders, taxpayers and voters on this issue in the District. My candidacy represents a true representative form of leadership for the people of the 31st District where for the first time, their voices, opinions and input is actually valued and would be lead any decision that I make on their behalf.

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?

Unfortunately, there are a number of reasons for the mass exodus you see in Illinois. Taxes, Property valuation imbalances in Cook County, Crime & Safety in many of the underserved neighborhoods in Chicago, equal chronic unemployment in many of our urban and rural areas heavily populated by people of color, unfriendly business climate, and more. In my opinion, they are all equal contributors to our declining tax base which is robbing us of great citizens who would otherwise contribute to the revitalization of our State.

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

We have to figure out a way to increase revenues without penalizing our existing tax base. In order to keep residents from leaving, we have to also identify how to create significant jobs for black people in the areas mentioned above to help reverse the negative trends occurring in those places. We have to decide if we want black people working, leaving or imprisoned. I choose to stand in the fullest support of black people working and remaining to call Illinois home. If we can come up with dramatic solutions that are initiated in a radical and static way (and not incremental), then we will see the turnaround that almost everyone says is necessary.

What should Illinois do to promote job creation?

To promote real job creation, we're going to have to make Illinois a business and job creation friendly environment. I will wait to see if Illinois benefits from the Trump Administration deregulations and 2018 Tax Plan that was just passed and determine if we are going to see companies and manufacturing return to our state.

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

I supported the Bill to reform the inequitable school funding formula because children of CPS have far too little funding to be afforded the education that will allow them to be competitive in our continuously growing global economy. However, I would like to have saw more consolidations from CPS attached, such as, an elected school board now, not 2023. Also, with the state picking up large shares of the Daley/Rahm teacher pension crisis coupled with the lack of reforms from CPS such as an elected school I would have fought to the end to see more property tax hike restrictions. Bottom line, CPS students need more money but CPS cannot be trusted with more. Oversight must be attached with any additional funding.

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

For starters, the legislature should pay the Chicago Public School system the monies they're owed so CPS can stop raising their share of the tax levy, resulting in yet another tax increase on the citizens of Chicago. That is the best way the GA can help CPS right now.

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

One of the major issues with opportunity scholarships bills such as SB 0668 which Senator Connelly has introduced is that they single out specifically Cook County where the district students largely are Black and Hispanics? Surely downstate school districts and those in Naperville which the Senator represents could benefit from school choice as well. I take serious issue with black communities always being the target for these kinds of reforms that shake up public education and force parents to make educational choices between union led teacher classrooms (which are job creators in our communities) and these kinds of charter/voucher/school choice options?

With that being said, I am for excellence in education and believe strongly that public schools should be given opportunities to re-succeed so that our children have the opportunity to go to schools in their communities and receive the education that is equal to that being offered across the state, in many other counties, cities and neighborhoods.

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

My party is hurting from revelations that Hillary Clinton essestionaly rigged our presidential primary because she had the money to purchase our national party. This is the reason we lost the election for President and it is just a scratching of the surface, if we continue to allow money to hold such the determining power it currently holds in our elections. Campaigns have become too expensive and leaves candidates beholden to wealthy donors and residents increasingly vulnerable to representation in theory only.

In the General Assembly, I would like to work with my counterparts and the Governor to stand up a commission to study and bring forth recommendations on how to responsibly adopt and implement a donor matching program that candidates can opt into that would cap the amounts of money that can be raised and spent in elections. This wouldn't go far enough however, ultimately, we will need our Federal Government to take some leadership on this issue that is surely apart of the killing of our democracy.

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

N/A

If you are an incumbent, give an example of a time you worked across the aisle on an important issue.

N/A

If you are an incumbent, give at least one example of a time you did not vote with your party on a significant issue.

N/A

Do you support term limits? If so, will you commit to sponsoring legislation and/or lobbying your colleagues on behalf of a constitutional change?

Term limits is a no brainer. Yes, I support term limits. The majority of people in my district favor term limits and I am in lockstep with my district on this issue. If elected on March 20th, I will be 32 years old. There is no way that a baby who will be born two years from now should be campaigning against me for this office in the year 2051! My opponent has held this office for far too long and it has put her out of touch with us. I will lead on ending this tradition.

This is not my office it is the office of the people and anyone holding it for what amounts to a career strongly suggest that it is their office. I reject that notion. Our democracy is a perfect balance of stability and fluidity; we need to constantly perfect it with timely leaders and leadership. I will commit to sponsoring legislation and lobbying my colleagues for a constitutional change on this issue.

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?

Will reach back out for comment.

Tell us a little about your family.

I have been married to my wife Brittany for 14 years. We have 6 Children. Will, Josh, Lizzy, Brittany, Lamar and Lear.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us.

I have 6 children (3 boys & 3 girls).

Candidates for Illinois House (31st district)

DEMOCRATIC