Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
Office sought: 23rd District Senate
Family: Wife of 21 years as of 2/2/2012,Debbie and two daughters ages 13 and 9.
Occupation: Legal-aid Attorney
Education: Juris Doctorate with honors, University of Kansas School of Law, 1996. Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, California State University Long Beach, 1989.
Civic involvement: Active/Leadership roles within my local church and regional governing body Illinois Minorities Political Action Committee -- Founding partner and legal advisor. Hanover Township Democrats and Independents -- steering committee member Grassroots political involvement building a movement for systemic civic changes locally
Elected offices held: I have not served in any sort of political office but have seen the legislative process up close; in law school I interned in the Kansas Legislature and made that year's ethics reform the subject of my research and writing. Also, in my subsequent role as an education attorney, I initiated and drafted school safety legislation that is still on the books in Kansas.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Promoting job growth and relief from economic distress by putting aside divisive politics and implementing common ground solutions.
Key Issue 2
Promoting fiscal and moral responsibility with our State resources, especially balancing the budget in responsible manner and adequate funding for public education.
Key Issue 3
Focusing like a laser beam on solutions that serve the needs of real people, not connected insiders or political self-interest.
What can you do specifically to help the economy in your district? What is your view of the tax breaks granted to companies like Motorola Mobility, Navistar and Sears? For incumbents, how did you vote on the Sears plan in this fall's veto session?
The first part of this question troubles me a bit because it sounds too much like 'bring home the bacon.'
I believe that the best path for my district is for all representatives and senators to work together to improve the Illinois economy.
On that front, here are a few of my ideas: 1. We need to create a better climate for business, starting with further reform to our workers compensation system.
Illinois still has the second-highest workers compensation costs and this is a drag on our job creation.
This past session produced some good examples of collaborative problem solving, where unions, business, and legislators came up with workable solutions (e.g. SB 7's education reform and SB 72's solution for unemployment funding).
I would strongly encourage a similar effort toward reducing our workers compensation costs.
2. Last session, Rep. Mussman offered a bill that would have cut legislator pay by 10%.
I like this lead-by-example idea but would modify it by tying pay reductions to specified rates of unemployment.
I suspect that this would give our legislators an extra measure of 'skin in the game? when it comes to job creation.
3. The inability to collect internet sales tax is a jobs issue because it puts local retailers'who create local jobs and pay local taxes'at a significant disadvantage.
Illinois recently corrected this problem for large internet retailers that sell products via in-state affiliates (e.g. Amazon).
Senator Durbin is the lead sponsor of a federal bill that would solve this problem on a broader basis.
I strongly support Senator Durbin's effort and the state-level efforts that would facilitate it.
If Senator Durbin's effort fails, I will investigate the prospect of solving this problem at the state level.
4. The Illinois State Board of Education recently adopted new ?Common Core? standards that, for the first time, put workplace readiness at the center of our state's education policy.
I strongly support these efforts because I believe that a highly skilled and well educated workforce will position Illinois to be a leader in job and income growth.
Among other things, this means that we must avoid catastrophic cuts to our education budget.
5. One of the worst things about the General Assembly as it is currently constituted is that leadership has too much control.
Solutions should rise or fall based solely on merit, not partisan advantage.
I strongly support rules changes that would allow broader consideration of ideas because I believe that this would provide a better structure for solving difficult problems such as job creation.
Regarding corporate tax breaks, big businesses have leverage to negotiate special deals largely because of job-raiding efforts by Governors from other states (e.g. Ohio's $400 million offer to Sears).
This is unfair to small businesses because it creates an uneven playing field.
But when one of these situations comes up, can we afford to let the other state take so many of our good jobs'
This will undoubtedly happen again and we need to figure out a sustainable policy.
But how do we simultaneously serve the competing goals of thwarting job-raiders, putting small businesses on an even playing field, rewarding companies for creating good jobs in Illinois, and sustaining much-needed revenue?
I have been thinking quite a bit about this lately and am still searching for an answer.
I wonder if it would make sense to treat this as a matter of pseudo foreign policy (e.g. no-raid agreements with governors of other states).
Do you favor limiting how much money party leaders can give candidates during a general election? If elected, do you plan to vote for the current leader of your caucus' Why or why not?
As much as I am a strong proponent of good government and meaningful campaign finance reform, I worry that this proposal has for unintended consequences.
Specifically, I wonder if this might make it harder for challengers to beat established incumbents and their huge fundraising advantages.
If the contribution limits for leaders were tied to other measures that would enhance competitive elections (public financing, fair legislative mapping procedures, term limits, etc.) I would strongly support them.
I have not decided if I would vote for the current leader of my caucus.
If a viable alternative arises, I would decide based on the merits.
How, specifically, would you cut the budget? What does Illinois need to do to fix its status as a "deadbeat state?" How have you or will you vote on future gambling bills' What is your view of slots at racetracks' Casino expansion?
During the 2010 campaign cycle, countless candidates called for a line-by-line analysis of the state budget.
I agreed with this idea (even though it sounded a bit like hollow rhetoric) and believe that we need to make absolutely certain that all state spending is both efficient and essential.
However, I don't think that we can afford to skimp on education because this is a crucial investment for our children, for job growth, and for our future tax base.
Moreover, I believe that it is immoral to balance the budget on the backs of our neediest citizens.
Finally, I know that many taxpayers are already stretched beyond the breaking point and believe that we need to do everything we can to respect their hard work and their struggles.
I will consistently vote for budget cuts according to these values.
Fortunately, some good folks are working toward these exact ideals.
The 2010 legislative session produced historic reform that requires Illinois to institute results-based budgeting.
In July of 2011, Governor Quinn created a commission (Budgeting for Results Commission or BRC) to study/implement this approach and they recently released their first report.
After reading the BRC report, I am highly encouraged by the prospects for prioritizing spending according to need, for narrowing spending based on results, for targeting programs with unsustainable cost growth, and for eliminating duplicate functions.
My hope is that this process will finally clear some of the fog when it comes to truly knowing what we can and cannot afford to cut.
My bottom line as a legislator will be to make smart, data-driven decisions that serve the common good.
I am very hopeful that BRC will soon provide a sound basis for such decisions when it comes to budget cuts.
I will consistently vote for cuts that make sense, regardless of any political cost for doing so.
I also believe that, absent a quick and dramatic turnaround in our state economy, we will need the additional revenue from the recent tax increase beyond 2014.
This is a basic math problem that most politicians avoid with dishonest rhetoric.
Indeed, the cut-only folks usually avoid basic math and/or the true consequences of their approach (e.g. higher property taxes and disastrous cuts to education).
But rather than reauthorizing the current system, I would prefer a complete overhaul that includes progressive rates, a broader tax base (e.g. taxes on appropriate services), 50% state funding for education and property tax relief.
The 'deadbeat? problem is still with us in the form of $7 billion in unpaid bills.
In addition to the ideas listed above, I am open to the idea of borrowing (1) if all of the new borrowing goes to existing debt (i.e. the unpaid bills) and (2) if it actually saves money.
It is easy to score political points by beating the anti-borrowing drum but borrowing is a tool that is neither intrinsically good nor intrinsically bad.
Indeed, I believe that the moralistic anti-borrowing zealots ought to spend a moment or two thinking about their values; isn't honest borrowing better than stiffing our state contractors'
As I understand the situation, the interest on the bonds for new borrowing would be less than the penalties we currently pay for late payments.
If so, borrowing would make sense (this was the theory behind SB 72 and it passed with only one vote against it).
In general, I do not support gambling expansion.
Among other things, I suspect that this is a regressive means for raising revenue.
However, I can envision narrow circumstances where I might vote for a measure that includes gambling (e.g. if I am forced into an up or down vote on an important infrastructure bill that includes gambling).
What do you specifically support to deal with the state's pension gap? Would you vote for House Republican Leader Tom Cross's three-tier pension plan? Why or why not?
I would not vote for SB 512 because I would prefer to give the public employee unions an opportunity to negotiate something that would (1) be fair both for public employees and taxpayers and (2) have a better chance of surviving a legal challenge.
As noted above, SB 7 and SB 72 serve as remarkable examples where all sides came together to solve a difficult problem.
I have personally had conversations with union leaders who tell me that they are having internal discussions about the need to negotiate some sort of pension solution.
We obviously need to solve this problem as soon as possible but I believe that the best approach is to start with the belief that fruitful negotiations are possible.
I terms of my own views, I believe that it is important for all sides to recognize that public employees and taxpayers are innocent parties in this disaster and that there's no way for us to get our money back from the irresponsible legislators who caused the problem.
In my humble opinion, this means that neither public employees nor taxpayers (or for that matter, recipients of vital services) should bear the entire burden of this problem that they did not create.
If negotiations fail, I would prefer to start where the negotiations leave off and my most important priority would be to do as much as possible to protect basic pension security; the average State pension is about $23,000?usually without the benefit of Social Security.
In addition to the revenue ideas listed above, I believe that we need to strongly consider the prospect of taxing retirement income and using every penny of the proceeds to pay down our pension deficit.
We are one of a small handful of states that does not apply its state income tax to retirement income. I recognize that many retirees live on a very modest fixed income but rather than carve out a narrow exception for these folks, I would prefer to deal with this by implementing progressive rates that apply to all taxpayers.
Should gay marriage be legalized? Should Illinois define life as beginning at conception as others have? How would you vote on a concealed carry firearm plan? Should the death penalty be reinstated?
These issues are important for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the contribution they make to machine politics.
Each one of these issues is tied to several well-funded interest groups that play a significant role in selecting our elected leaders.
Is this a good way to select people who are serious about solving difficult problems such as job creation?
I say NO!
Moreover, it makes me ill that such interest groups make tons of money by intentionally creating divisiveness among people whose common needs far exceed the sum of their differences.
As much as I would like to stay focused on what we have in common, I don't want to avoid anything either.
Regarding gay marriage, I was a voting member of my church's regional assembly when we considered this question.
I understand that marriage started out as contract-based idea but the term has clearly taken on a religious/moral meaning.
I do not believe that religious/moral judgments are an appropriate role for government.
Accordingly, I would prefer to purge the word from our legal structures and leave "marriage" to churches and other faith communities.
From participating in my own church's process, I know that this is a much better place for thoughtful deliberation about moral judgments.
From a purely civil standpoint, I don't think that our government should confer lesser benefits or status on homosexual couples.
As such, I would prefer that all civil ceremonies (including heterosexual) result in a 'civil union.'
The 'conception' issue strikes me as an example of heated political rhetoric and it seems to extend the abortion debate all the way to common forms of birth control.
I would not vote for this.
I'm fine with responsible, honest forms of gun ownership.
But just as gun advocates argue for their rights, what about the rights of those who prefer to avoid guns'
I suspect that open carry would better serve all of the relevant interests, including self-protection, deterrence, and providing an opportunity for people who don't like guns to see where they are and avoid them.
For a variety of reasons, I oppose the death penalty.
Foremost among them is that it is not possible to reverse the result if we later discover a wrongful conviction.