Terra Costa Howard: 2022 candidate for Illinois House 42nd District
Office sought: Illinois House 42nd District
City: Glen Ellyn
Occupation: Attorney and state representative
Previous offices held: Two terms, State Representative, Dist. 48; two terms, Glen Ellyn School District 41 Board of Education, including two years as board president
Q: What needs to be done structurally to make the legislature more effective? What is your position on term limits in general and for legislative leaders specifically?
A: Term limits sound like a really good idea to voters who are frustrated with unresponsive governments and legislative deadlock.
We already have term limits in place - the regular elections in which voters can elect new leaders to represent their districts. However, I will thoughtfully consider any proposed piece of legislation regarding term limits, and I will seek input from the people in my district before deciding how I will vote.
I do support term limits for legislative leaders. We passed a 10-year limit in the House, but the Senate did not take it up. That was disappointing, as I think a 10-year limit balances leadership experience with the need for fresh ideas and diverse viewpoints.
I think the biggest change we need in the General Assembly is a more robust debate on the budget. I understand that putting a budget together is time-consuming, but I think the process - and the final budget - - would benefit from earlier input from the full Legislature.
Q: Federal assistance has enabled the state to make important advances toward improving its budget. What will you do to ensure these advances continue when the federal aid is gone?
A: I'm very proud of the work that we have done over the past four years to put Illinois on a solid fiscal foundation. The General Assembly has passed balanced, responsible budgets that have enabled the state to pay its bills on time, save a billion dollars in pension costs, and build up the rainy-day fund. Our commitment to fiscal responsibility has earned Illinois six credit rating upgrades, saving us millions of dollars in interest on our bonds.
I think the federal assistance has been used appropriately to address urgent short-term issues, such as COVID assistance. This year's budget also includes targeted relief to help working families that are struggling with inflation.
We have been careful not to add significant new line items to the base budget. Our first priority must be to fund programs and grants that are already on the books. We've been doing a good job of crafting budgets that reflect our long-term priorities while putting these federal dollars to good immediate use.
Q: To what extent are you happy or unhappy with the evidence-based model for education funding now in place in Illinois? How would you define "adequate" state funding for Illinois schools and what will you do to promote that?
A: Many school districts are demonstrating improvements under EBF, such as Queen Bee District in Glendale Heights. But as a former school board president, I am concerned about the unintended consequences for high-performing districts that have shown good stewardship by building reserves to preserve quality during leaner times. The property tax reform bill begins to address that issue by removing the incentive for local taxing bodies to maximize the levy each year, as protection against unexpected cost increases or revenue shortages.
While there is no one-size-fits-all definition of adequate state funding, the quality of a child's education should not depend on that child's ZIP code. Until the state steps up and provides more education dollars, it's going to be difficult to achieve serious property tax relief in communities like ours. I will continue to advocate in Springfield for reforms in education funding that will ease the property tax burden while increasing equity in our schools.
Q: Do you believe elections in Illinois are free and fair? What changes, if any, are needed regarding election security and voter access?
A: Illinois has one of the best, most secure election systems in the country. We also have done great work in protecting voting rights and expanding ballot access, thanks in no small part to legislation initially proposed by the House Women's Caucus that passed in 2021.
With that said, I do think there is room for improvement. The system that we have established in DuPage County, which allows eligible voters to cast their ballots at any location in the county, has made it even easier for people to vote at a time and place that works for them. We have proven that this system works, and I think the DuPage County system should be adopted throughout the state of Illinois. (And even though you didn't ask specifically, I am morally certain that Joe Biden was fairly elected president in 2020, and I don't believe anyone who denies the validity of that election should be allowed to hold office, in Illinois or anywhere else in this country.)
Q: How well has Illinois responded to Supreme Court indications that it considers abortion, gay marriage and other social issues to be state, not federal, responsibilities? What if anything needs to be done in these areas and what would you do to make your vision come to pass?
A: The Dobbs decision was not an "indication." It was a clear statement that this Court is willing to violate decades of legal precedent for baldly political reasons, with no respect for our rights. As a lawyer, I find it unconscionable that the majority of the justices violated their solemn oath to uphold the Constitution. It makes no sense that our fundamental rights would vary from state to state. I fear this flawed and heartless decision, as horrible as it is, was only the first step.
This Court has set its sights on our right to use contraception and our right to marry the person we love.
Thanks to some farsighted advocates - and the diligence and commitment of the General Assembly - Illinois was ready to protect women's rights when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. But we need to stay vigilant. If we lose our Democratic majority in the legislature, we could lose those protections. So when people go to the polls on Nov. 8, I hope they will remember that it CAN happen here.