Michelle Mussman: Candidate Profile
56th District Representative (Democrat)
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: 56th District Representative
Family: Married, 3 children
Occupation: former graphic designer, stay at home mom
Education: B.S. in Design from the University of Cincinnati
Civic involvement: I have been involved in community service primarily through my local PTA at Enders-Salk Elementary, where I held numerous elected officer positions including Treasurer and President, and with the Schaumburg Township Council of PTAs.
Elected offices held: I am currently serving in my first term as state representative, having never before run for or held public office.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Jobs and the economy
Key Issue 2
Reining in the state budget (eliminating the deficit, getting the state?s finances back on track, cutting waste from Medicaid and other programs, modernizing the pension systems, etc)
Key Issue 3
Property taxes There are several major issues facing our area and our state, and there are no easy solutions. I want to stop the state?s poor financial situation from having a devastating and irreversible effect on future generations. I have worked to scale back waste and unnecessary spending as well as non-essentials in the state?s budget in order to get through this difficult time. I am fulfilling my promise to return 10 percent of my salary to area charities, and I voted to block any pay increases and voted to cut perks for state representatives and other officials. We also need to take action on behalf of struggling property owners. The current system that allows taxpayers to pay more property taxes on their home as their property values decline is not reflective of their current economic situation and needs to be changed. We should be working so that it is not as difficult or unattainable for families and seniors to remain in their homes.
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?
The state can address its commitment to fully funding the pension systems by carefully utilizing the small amount of money we do have to start paying this down and making a solid but reasonable plan for paying the owed amount in full. Paying this down will not be easy, but we must resist any unreasonable plans that demand high payments in the immediate future, in order to remove the temptation to ignore this plan and slip back into non-payment. I voted to require a full pension payment the last two years, which is as long as I?ve been in office. We must also take steps to modernize the system. Any proposals must be created with all stakeholders engaged and with the understanding that the resolution will not be immediate and must be reasonable. I supported legislation to go after abuse of the pension system, specifically those who were rewarded exorbitant pension benefits for not doing the required work. While this is not a pension issue directly, I also voted to eliminate the practice of awarding free health insurance to retired state employees by allowing the director of CMS to set a premium rate upon consultation with a qualified panel. I supported legislation to cut pension benefits for existing legislators and end them for future legislators. Property taxes are one of the issues I hear about most frequently at the door. If the proposal to shift pension costs to suburban school districts would further increase property taxes on my constituents, that is something I cannot support. I believe the best way to craft solutions are to work with legislators from both sides of the aisles as well as all invested parties.
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 so many ways that government can help people, but we must learn to live within our means. We need to maximize every dollar and make sure that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently and only on projects, programs? and jobs that move Illinois forward. I have several recommendations and I am open to any and all suggestions to cut or eliminate state spending so that Illinois can balance its budget and reduce taxes. First, all governmental agencies must work together to ensure the proper administration of the state. The Office of the Auditor General goes to tremendous lengths to provide complete and accurate audits of various state agencies and programs, and most audit reports reveal areas in which the State can improve the way it functions. Agencies must take corrective actions and work to eliminate waste and overspending. Second, we must put an end to taxpayer-funded programs that aren?t working or taxpayer-funded jobs that are unnecessary or duplicative. In 2007, the Office of the Auditor General attempted to inventory all of the state programs and discovered the State funds approximately 1,750 programs, and that some are duplicative or could be consolidated. Third, Illinois should rebid state contracts to put an end to sweetheart deals and special favors for insiders and campaign contributors. Fourth, we must make the budget process more transparent and give taxpayers an opportunity to review and comment on how the state spends their money. It is time for rank and file members to stand up to leadership, take control of the process, prioritize spending, and propose cuts. Fifth, we need to implement a 10% reduction in salaries for elected officials. I also believe that pay raises for high ranking political appointees should be rescinded and future raises should be eliminated. These reductions will not result in significant savings, but will demonstrate that officials are sharing the pain many Illinois families are currently experiencing. Future pay raises for elected officials should be voted on by the taxpayers. Sixth, we need to end practices of expense accounts, state-issued cell phones, rides on state air planes, assignment of state vehicles for individuals? use, and taxpayers footing the bill for coffee. State officials and workers are not celebrities. I can pay for my own lunch. There are thousands of Illinoisans who would love to have a job to carpool to and millions who are working hard to earn the money they pay in taxes. Illinois can correct its budget woes by no longer missing payments to pensions and by no longer ignoring the urgency of paying off its debts. Families in Illinois can?t push off their debt without consequences and Illinois needs to be budgeting like families do. I am opposed to massive gambling increases. I voted against the casino expansion proposal that is awaiting Governor Quinn?s consideration because I felt that the plan was extremely large and unwieldy. Our state?s regulatory agency has stated that it is struggling with the challenges posed by slot machines in bars, so I question its ability to carefully administer this plan.
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?
Illinois must have a variety of policies that promote and support job creation. We simply cannot afford not to. Illinois must be a good place to do business and a good partner with whom to do business. Giving employers tax credits for moving to Illinois, staying here or hiring workers is a good investment. I have been in office for less than two years, and during that time, I have backed budgets that were scaled back from prior years (we cut about $3 billion over the two years) and that allocated a large amount of money ($1.3 billion) to paying down unpaid debts. I am continually dismayed that past officials allowed our debt to rise and felt it acceptable to pass it on to the future without a plan to pay it down. I do not come from a political background but anyone raising a family who has college hopes for their children or retirement hopes for themselves, or anyone leading a business through these economic storms knows that pushing debts off to the future is a recipe for failure. Additionally, delaying payments to providers and business vendors is like burdening them with a loan they did not consent to. I have seen it as a priority to pay down these debts, and I will continue pushing for that until it is complete. We must create a business climate that gives owners and investors both specific and effective incentives as well as general comfort that Illinois is reliable, consistent and lives up to its word. In fact, I passed legislation out of the House that would allow lawmakers to demand a note detailing the fiscal impact legislative proposals might have on the business community. Votes cannot be cast in Springfield in a vacuum?every potential impact must be examined and discussed. We must fulfill promises that were made, such as allowing the income tax increase to expire. I would vote to repeal the income tax increase to see those savings for taxpayers start sooner. I have helped to pass reforms in worker?s compensation and Medicaid, both of which will bring savings to the state. Cutting fraudulent beneficiaries of Medicaid off the rolls is a step that is necessary, long overdue and will save the state needed money. Locally, I have held events such as job bootcamps to assist unemployed or underemployed residents in gaining skills and learning tips to being competitive in the job market. I have partnered with local agencies and businesses to directly connect people looking for work with openings. In 2011, I supported Senate Bill 397 which provided tax relief for Sears (headquartered in Hoffman Estates, which I represent part of) and a variety of tax credits for businesses, including for research and development, investments and net losses. Because a floor was put on the jobs they must retain, I believed that the cost of the credits for Sears was worth the local and long term job retention. I think it?s important to note that when Motorola Mobility lost jobs (under the contractual threshold), they lost their tax incentives, which is what I believe must happen.
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.
It is always a good thing to shine a light on campaign financing, which is why I support increased reporting and disclosure of political fundraising transactions. I am certainly open to any proposals and would be willing to look at any ideas that do not give an unfair advantage to special interest groups. I believe that everyone should have an opportunity to express their political views and support of or opposition to candidates of their choice; however, no one individual person should be permitted to silence the political voice of others. Leaders of a party or caucus should not have unlimited power or control over the members of the General Assembly, and I disagree with the recent campaign finance law that failed to cap contributions to candidates from party leaders. I support limiting the amount a candidate may accept from individuals, corporations, and PACs. I will sit down and talk with those interested in serving as the leader of the House Democratic caucus and share my constituents? concerns and priorities. It would be presumptive to commit to someone because I do not know who is running for leadership positions.
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?
Let me make it clear that if elected to serve in the General Assembly, I will uphold my oath of office by supporting the US and Illinois Constitutions and will faithfully discharge the duties of the office. When reviewing legislation, I will take into consideration the constitutionality of all proposed laws and the concerns of my constituents. I spend hours each week talking to residents at their doors about the issues that are most important to them, and they don?t raise this issue. I don?t believe the proposal yet has enough support to pass in a lame-duck or in a newly inaugurated session. I think Illinois should first focus on crafting policies that create jobs, stabilize the economy, pay off our debts and scale back our spending before legislating controversial national issues that would provoke costly litigation. I believe that the definition of the start of life and any decision about abortion are best left to a woman, her family and her doctor. I support the 2nd amendment and the rights of lawful gun owners. However, I do not support allowing concealed carry on our streets and public places. There have been too many recent examples of guns being in the hands of people who should not have had them. Until/unless we can make sure that people with severe mental illnesses (such as those that required hospitalization/institutionalized care) or people with prior convictions are properly barred from carrying guns, I think expanding possession in public puts more children and families at risk. In order to protect the rights of lawful gun owners, we must crack down on those who sell guns to people prohibited by law from possessing a firearm.