Mary Edly-Allen: Candidate profile, Illinois House 51st District
Incumbent Democrat Mary Edly-Allen of Libertyville faces a challenge from Republican Chris Bos, a Lake Zurich minister, in the race for Illinois House from the 51st District, which takes in all or parts of Arlington Heights, Barrington, Barrington Hills, Buffalo Grove, Deer Park, Forest Lake, Grayslake, Green Oaks, Gurnee, Hawthorn Woods, Kildeer, Lake Barrington, Lake Zurich, Libertyville, Long Grove, Mettawa, Mundelein, North Barrington, Tower Lakes, Vernon Hills, Wauconda, and Waukegan.
The Daily Herald recently asked the candidates a series of questions. Here are their replies.
For complete election coverage, visit dailyherald.com.
Q: Should Speaker Madigan resign from his leadership positions? If he does not resign, will you support him for a new term as House speaker?
A: I was not elected to protect the status quo, and I will not sit silently while the actions of our leaders undermine the integrity of our state government and our political system. The allegations against Speaker Madigan are troubling and have damaged the public's trust to the point of no return. Although Speaker Madigan is entitled to due process of law in any criminal proceedings, those of us in public office must hold ourselves to a higher standard. If these allegations against Speaker Madigan are true, it is only right that he step down.
Q: Describe at least two circumstances in which you have shown or would show a willingness and capacity to act independently of the direction or demands of party leadership.
A: I have backed Fair Maps reform and a bold platform of ethics reform legislation that will help clean up Springfield and restore the public's trust in state government.
Q: How would you rate the governor's handling of the COVID-19 crisis? Does the legislature need to have more input and influence in establishing rules and policies related to stemming the spread of the disease? What you have done differently, if anything? If nothing, please say so.
A: I think it's important to acknowledge the efforts of first responders who have fought on the front lines -- putting their lives at risk, to combat the virus -- and to mourn the lives that have been lost and the pain that has touched too many families.
The biggest and most important challenge facing leaders across the country in dealing with this unprecedented pandemic has been how to keep communities safe from COVID-19. We need to continue to remain vigilant to ensure that testing is widely available for residents and the results of those tests are processed in a timely manner. We must continue to connect our residents and businesses to the resources that will support them.
Now more than ever is it important that leaders across the political spectrum put aside their differences and work together. Political games and pointing fingers are easy. I intend to continue offering a helping hand to work with everyone -- regardless of party -- who is serious about solutions for all Illinoisans. I appreciate Gov. Pritzker and his team's willingness to listen to the needs of my constituents and make adjustments to the Restore Illinois plan when needed.
Q: Regardless of whether the federal government provides assistance, what is the impact of the pandemic on the state's economic outlook and what immediate and long-term actions should be taken to address it? Would you support increasing taxes to pay for COVID-19 response or to make up for lost revenue related to COVID-19?
A: The financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is going to take years for the state to fully recover from. We need independent leaders who are willing to put partisan games aside and make tough choices that will move our state forward. As we move forward, I think it's important to build off past successes. I would look at the bipartisan budget passed in Fiscal Year 2020, as a blueprint for our state working together in a bipartisan manner to address short and long-term problems. We must be thoughtful as we look at areas we can reduce spending. Tough choices will be made, but any cuts need to be made with a scalpel and not a sledgehammer. Efficiencies may be gained by consolidation of government programs and services; however, we must prioritize programs that support our most vulnerable -- especially as so many in our community face economic uncertainty.
Q: The graduated income tax is designed with the intent to reduce taxes for 97 percent of Illinoisans. Do you believe that will happen? Why or why not? What assurances can be given to voters?
A: I supported empowering Illinois' residents to decide if our state's tax structure should be amended to reflect that of the federal government and more than 30 other states including Wisconsin, Missouri and Ohio. The fact is, the proposed rates would reduce taxes for 97 percent of Illinoisans; this is not debatable. Moving forward, it is vital that the Fair Tax is coupled with a reduction in spending to protect middle class taxpayers from future tax hikes.
Q: Do you support any type of tax on retirement benefits?
A: I oppose any form of retirement tax. Seniors are living on tight budgets and many have already made long-term plans to retire based on their current retirement income. Any tax on retirement would jeopardize these plans and unduly harm our seniors.
Q: Should Illinois prohibit lawmakers from lobbying other levels of government? Should lawmakers be prohibited from becoming lobbyists after their term in office? For how long?
A: Yes, over the last few months the public's trust in Illinois' state government has been shaken to its core. We need real ethics reform. I recently signed on to a platform of ethics reform legislation and both of these issues were included. Lawmakers should be prohibited from lobbying other levels of government and lawmakers should be prohibited from lobbying after their last day in office for at least one year.
Q: What are the most important components that should be included in legislative ethics reform? What will you do to help them come to pass?
A: We need to ensure that the reforms that we pass have real teeth and are not half-measures that only partially address systemic problems in Springfield. That is why I'm supporting ethics reform that takes serious and immediate steps to change the culture of Springfield that has failed communities like mine. One reform that I'd like specifically to highlight establishes term limits for legislative leaders. I will continue to work with the legislators who signed on to our reform agenda to pass these proposals and continue to build our coalition of reform-minded lawmakers.
Q: What should the state do to address the still-growing problems with its key pension programs?
A: First and foremost, we need to make the full required pension payments each and every year. It took decades over several administrations for Illinois' pension liability to develop. It will require a long-term, bipartisan approach to get our state back on track. As we move forward, tough choices must be made. We need to include stakeholders such as organized labor, business leaders, and organizations that represent the middle-class families that pension reform would affect most directly. These discussions must occur without the partisan games and gridlock that have plagued our state for too long. Before the COVID-19 crisis, we passed a bipartisan budget that paid down more than $1 billion in past-due bills. We should continue to work together in a bipartisan manner to pay down our unfunded pension liability.
Q: Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should state government be taking to address the issue?
A: Yes, I believe -- and the science overwhelmingly proves -- the fact that climate change is caused by human activity. It's vital that we protect our air, land and water to ensure that our future generations will have a sustainable planet and hold bad-faith actors who pollute our community accountable. We need to continue to work toward passing policy that will make Illinois a national leader in creating a healthier future for our planet. I support investment in clean energy programs and jobs that reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. That's why I'm sponsoring the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which will create tens of thousands of new green jobs and put Illinois on a path to achieve 100 percent renewable energy.
Q: Protesters have massed in the streets in Chicago and other cities across Illinois for greater social justice and changes in the funding and responsibilities for police. How significant a role does systemic racism play in limiting equal opportunity in Illinois? To the degree that it exists, what should be done about it? What, if any, changes should be made in funding and duties of police?
A: It is clear that the status quo is not working and we need to examine ways to reform our criminal justice system and to work to level the playing field for communities of color. We should increase investments in programs to provide economic and educational opportunities in minority communities who have all too often been left behind. I believe that our local police should receive additional funding for community-policing programs, body cameras and increased training in de-escalation practices to avoid conflicts resulting in violence.