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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: 44th District Representative
Family: Ramiro, his wife, X?chitl, and their two children, Arturo, 3, and Diego, 1, live in Streamwood.
Occupation: Public School Teacher
Education: Bachelor of Arts in History. Master of Arts in Teaching. K-8, Bilingual, ELL, and Middle School Endorsements
Civic involvement: Candidate did not respond.
Elected offices held: I had never been active in politics until now. While this had not been in my life plan, I feel it is necessary to get involved because many of our legislators are disconnected from reality.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Education As a teacher, I have seen first-hand how a ?one-size-fits-all? approach to education does not work. We need to allow local schools, teachers, and parents to determine the best educational methods for their students, not bureaucrats. We need to focus on getting students to reach higher levels of attainment in math, science, reading, and writing. It is my belief that all children in the state of Illinois deserve the best education possible. Unfortunately, much of our education funding is not being efficiently spent in the classroom. Too much money is allocated to administrative nonsense that does nothing for the students. We need to cut the wasteful spending. A strong public education system is vital to the future success of the State of Illinois. Additionally, the State of Illinois needs to make prudent investments in our public institutions of higher education. A more competitive system of post-secondary institutions will improve the state?s economy. Businesses will come to Illinois to tap the potential of our labor force.
Key Issue 2
Jobs and the Economy Illinois needs to create an economic environment in which job providers can prosper. We need to encourage the manufacturing industry while expanding technology, renewable energy, tourism, and trade. Illinois needs to do whatever possible to keep and create jobs. We need to increase opportunities, generate a vigorous workforce, maintain a competitive advantage over other states, and attract quality jobs. Today, businesses are closing and jobs are being lost. Illinois needs to foster an environment in which businesses start to create more jobs here instead of moving them to other states. Creating jobs should be a priority in the Illinois legislature. By reducing taxes we can bring new jobs to our communities and keep the ones we already have. Springfield must do better. That is my priority during this tough economic time.
Key Issue 3
Budget, Spending, and Taxes The state of Illinois needs to maintain a balanced budget, control spending, and keep taxes low. I believe in a conservative fiscal approach to state spending. We simply cannot let the deficits grown any larger. We should still continue to make important investments in infrastructure development, education, human services and job creation. We need to look at where we use the most of our General Fund. It?s time that we look at the major expenditures; Education, Corrections and Healthcare, and reform these programs so that they are efficient. Increasing taxes is not an option. People are already feeling the negative impact of our struggling economy and increasing taxes is not the answer. Illinois needs to restructure our tax code to attract job providers and start up business.
How would you fix the state's pension gap? Should pension costs be shifted to suburban school districts? Why or why not? Should this issue be voted on in a lame-duck session? Why or why not? How can partisan gridlock be eased to solve the crisis?
As a young teacher I am in a unique position to understand the frustrations of current employees. I support public schools and its teachers. I have many colleagues that are excellent teachers. I also know teachers that should truly look into moving into a different profession. Many good teachers have created relationships with parents and students, they have gotten students to meet or exceed on state assessments, and they have students showing tremendous growth in their learning. I do not want to see the pension system eliminated for these dedicated teachers. They work very hard, many times in very difficult learning environments. Nonetheless, this does not change the facts about the $83 billion dollar liability. Why do we have that liability, well? there are plenty of reasons. There are faults on the side of public policy, the legislature and some ridiculous perks for those in the pension system. Finding a culprit will not solve this problem, what we need is an innovative solution that can realistically be implemented to benefit both the state and the retirement participants. First teachers need to be represented in the discussion of pension reform. This in itself could help prevent COSTLY legal battles in the court system. Let?s make sure we don?t mess around with what we have committed to those in the system for past service. What I think the teachers can do is increase their contributions into the system. This is something that even the IEA has come to realize is necessary. And while teachers have never missed a pension contribution, let?s make sure Illinois makes its annual pension payment first by making it the first appropriation and expenditure each year. Furthermore, if you are not a teacher, you should not get a teacher?s pension. I and many teachers find it insulting that one day of substitute work would qualify for someone to qualify for a TRS pension. That is abuse and corruption. We need to address this contractual and constitutional relationship of the pension system, with a feasible and financially sound solution to assure that teachers have a reliable and safe retirement that does NOT create a heavy burden on Illinois taxpayers. All pension costs should not be shifted to the local school districts. If we do this, there is going to be a huge strain on school funding and we are going to see the largest cuts in history, starting with enrichment programs and the fine arts. Furthermore, school districts will simply get the revenue elsewhere, such as property taxes. This is not a good idea. I would support a small percentage being required of the school districts if it is phased in gradually. There is nothing wrong with school districts having a little skin in the pension system, especially if it prevents them from giving 20% pay increases to balloon pension benefits. But we cannot shift all pension costs, simply because the legislature has failed to act. I realize the pension I have focused on is with the Teacher Retirement System, but it is the one with the largest liability and the one that has garnished the most attention. I do think what we do with the pensions should apply to all pensions? state wide. We should not pick and choose pensions as we see fit, it is a state issue of financial and social responsibility. Furthermore this is something that needs to be addressed immediately, and not wait until a lame-duck session. Everyone needs to get on board to pass some type of meaningful reform, and if they don?t, both leaders of the house will be held accountable for their actions or lack-of.
How, specifically, would you cut the budget? What does Illinois need to do to fix its status as a "deadbeat state?" How will you vote on future gambling bills? What is your view of slots at racetracks? Casino expansion?
There are some budget items that could be considered for privatization, elimination or restructuring, if that means keeping the state on solid financial ground. Illinois simply needs to begin to be more efficient and learn to do more with less. I believe that if we really want to balance the budget, we need to look at the three major areas of expenditures. That is Education, Corrections and Medical Care. We have to reorganize and reform these programs. I think we need to restructure Medicaid so that that it begin to targets wellness rather than sickness. Tuition Waivers (granted by the universities, which account for more than 8 times as many waivers as Legislative waivers) should also be changed into scholarships. These waivers are granted by bureaucrats and department heads, which use them on assistants, such as grad students, and they seldom are accountable for the actual cost of them. If we turn them into scholarships, we would know exactly how much is being spent. We need to reform the state university professorial teaching week. We need to ask college professors to spend more time in the classroom teaching. Even if we added a mere 4 or 6 hours a week, that would reduce significant costs at the universities Within corrections, people need to realize that nearly ? of all inmates are in prison for non-violent crimes. We need to rethink Corrections Policy and focus on rehabilitation and provide proper work skills. There are many jobs that former prisoners are barred by law from holding. Illinois needs to review these and use common sense in re-evaluating some of these prohibitions. We are simply making it more difficult for people to re-enter the workforce and become contributing citizen. When we fail to do this, these individuals are at risk to fall into their old ways. There are many other things we can do. For example, elected officials spend millions of dollars a year on air travel and private ?constitutional officers?, security guards. Why do department heads need private drivers and cars? In a state that is essentially bankrupt, we should not be subsidizing international travel for our elected officials, and they should be driving themselves to where they need to go. We have a state air fleet that costs millions and is not necessary, and is being abused. While I don?t like the idea of additional gaming, our state is in such bad shape, we need to find revenue to pay for the out-of-control spending that Springfield has done. Furthermore, I strongly believe that gambling money should strictly go into education, which needs to be reformed. I would rather not see casino expansion, but we need to keep our options open because of the horrendous shape our economy is in.
What can you do specifically to help the economy in your district? How can you help create jobs in your district and statewide? What is your view of the tax breaks granted to companies like Motorola Mobility, Navistar and Sears?
As the State representative for the 44th district, I would take a primary role in helping the local economy by promoting our assets and matching the needs of businesses and other organizations with our strengths. My district has many qualities which make it desirable to outside investors, developers and entrepreneurs. We have prime real estate for both commercial and residential purposes. We are accessible to the City of Chicago for business and travel and we have a population that values hard work, economic empowerment and education. While it is important to support local businesses and new job creations, we need to be aware of the consequences some policies have on the community. I do not like the idea of tax breaks, because I believe that the free markets should determine whether a company is successful or not. If a tax break were to be proposed, it should only be given if the net benefit of the tax break is absolutely favorable for the people in the area. Furthermore, tax breaks need to be based, in law, on conditional criteria, such as, increased employment and Springfield must provide details on how specifically tax breaks will be paid for. They are not free. The Sears EDA, led by my opponent, Fred Crespo, was horrible legislation for many reasons. He purposely made it difficult for proper transparency and discussion with school officials, local community leaders and parents. It was being pushed in an area that was not blighted. It was causing an already strapped school district to lose (millions) in anticipated corporate property tax revenue that they had been waiting for the past 20 years. It was legislation that would directly benefit the village of Hoffman Estates, which already is finding it difficult to maintain the Sears campus due to their lost bet on the Sears Center. He tried to pass it as legislation focused on jobs, but as we know, Sears has continued to close down stores and lay-off workers. That is the problem with incumbents such as my opponent, Fred Crespo. To them it is no longer about the community. I will support incentives that help small businesses, but I will absolutely not support legislation such as the Sears/CMA debacle. Those two packages should have been debated separately as well as the small business incentives. Unfortunately they were not.
Do you favor limiting how much money party leaders can give candidates during an election? If elected, do you plan to vote for the current leader of your caucus? Why or why not? Do you support or oppose campaign contribution limits? Please explain.
I believe that ALL legislators should be treated under the same campaign contribution rules/laws/limits; including leaders. Legislative leaders should not be given special treatment that exempts them from campaign contribution limits. I have not yet made a decision on whether I will voter for the current leader of my caucus. I am keeping up-to-date with the party leadership. It is still early in the election cycle, and I will address this at another time. Nonetheless, all options must remain open.
Should gay marriage be legalized in Illinois? Should it be voted on in a lame-duck session as civil unions were? Should Illinois define life as beginning at conception? How would you vote on a concealed carry plan? Should the death penalty return?
I believe important legislation should always occur when the legislators will be held accountable for their actions or lack-of. I believe life begins at conception. I support our second amendment right to keep and bear arms. That includes responsible legislation for concealed carry. I do not think the death penalty should be reinstated. There is too great a risk of wrongful convictions.