Laura Dias: 2022 candidate for Illinois House 62nd District
Office sought: Illinois House 62nd District
Occupation: Small business owner
Previous offices held: Grayslake Village Trustee
Q: How well did the Illinois government respond to the COVID-19 crisis? What do you think should be done differently?
Illinois had strong responses to ensure safety, especially with the lack of federal leadership. Leaders followed science, implemented sound public policy, and made hard choices to prioritize health and safety. Two years later, hospitalizations and death rates are low. However, we need to meet small business needs more quickly in a crisis. As a small business owner, I remember how uncertain the early days of the pandemic were financially. My family's livelihood was tied to a business my parents built from scratch 40 years ago. The future was scary for families. The State could have provided more support by incentivizing businesses to do the right thing for employees and public health. One lesson is clear: the need for expanded healthcare. The pandemic exposed disparities and showed problems with employee based healthcare when people lost jobs. Widespread support for free vaccines and COVID-19 testing demonstrates we are ready for healthcare in a more equitable and accessible format.
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?
Ethics reform is a major component of my platform and needed at every level of government. I am a strong advocate for ethics reform and increased transparency at the state level. As a Village Trustee, I advocated for live oral public comment during virtual meetings. Voting is a Constitutional right and must be protected for all. I will advocate for reforms like increased ballot drop boxes, ballot tracking tools for counties across the state, and electronic voting tools for people with disabilities. Also, it is clear the detrimental role money
plays in politics. We need to reform the influence of money with reasonable campaign contribution limits. "Dark" or undisclosed money in politics has soared. True ethical reform requires disclosure of the source of campaign contributions. Finally, we must reform financial policies regarding campaigns to make running accessible for all people. To ensure our state works for all of us, we need elected officials from all socioeconomic backgrounds.
Q: What should the state do to address the still-growing problems with its key pension programs?
Our pension system is in crisis due to the long term mismanagement of the system. Firefighters, police officers, teachers, and public sector workers choose their professions in order to protect and strengthen their communities. They deserve the pensions they have been promised and deserve to retire with dignity after decades of public service. There is a lot of rhetoric that paints this crisis as either/or -- that you have to choose between pensions and sound financial policy. Our pension crisis is complex and will not be fixed with one way thinking. All stakeholders should be brought together to develop a reasonable and legal plan that addresses pensions. I am in full support for consolidation of pension programs in order to reduce financial service fees. Through scale we can reduce legal fees for the management of pensions. Consolidating pensions would serve to create a larger pool of money which would increase returns on investments.
Q: Describe at least two circumstances in which you have shown or would show a willingness to act independently of the direction or demands of party leadership.
I am committed to standing up for policies that are good for my community. I was 21 years old when I first used my voice publicly. The shopping mall in my hometown had leased space to a vendor that sold racist merchandise. I led a community effort to pressure the mall to not renew the lease of the vendor. We succeeded. Since then, I have spoken out against policies that I don't agree with and advocated for policies I support. Recently, as a trustee I cast the lone dissenting vote against a special use permit for a gas station due to environmental, traffic, and public health impacts concerns. There was immense public outcry against the gas station with a petition signed by nearly 500 residents. I knew the village had the authority and obligation to evaluate the proposal and listen to the community. I cast my vote because it was the right thing to do. I will fight for good policy based on what is best for people in my community. I will vote with my conscience and my constituents.
Q: What should lawmakers be doing to stem out-migration from Illinois?
In order to address the root causes of out-migration in Illinois, we need to use fact-based data. There is much conjecture as to why people are moving from Illinois. While the data shows we are losing population, there are people and businesses that choose to move here. We need to understand why in order to increase opportunities that support migration to Illinois. Fortunately, Lake County is seeing less population decline than the rest of the state. There are many possible reasons for this trend, but I believe the most influential factor is equitable access to quality education in our communities. Changes to the Education Funding Formula have begun to provide some relief for working families, and with children going through improved school systems, families aren't looking to leave. Any substantive statistical analysis should continue to monitor these trends to determine if, how much, and why migration is occurring in our state. That fact-based data can then inform better policy.
Q: Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should government be taking to address the issue?
Climate change is caused by human activity. Environmental policy focused on reducing carbon emissions and sequestering carbon is no longer a nice to have, it is imperative. Illinois needs to continue to build a comprehensive plan to reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change. We need to track and create aggressive goals for reducing the carbon emissions of our public facilities. Illinois needs to incentivize the adoption of solar panels for residential, commercial, and governmental uses. Illinois should also be promoting the transition from gasoline powered cars to electric vehicles. There is also an opportunity in climate change with the growth of the expanding green technology sector. Human innovation to address the climate crisis can lead to the creation of high skilled jobs and an improved economy that benefits all people.
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 you offer voters?
I support a graduated income tax that reduces income tax on working families. Because our flat tax system does not require millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share, Illinois homeowners pay some of the highest property tax rates in the nation. If we change to a graduated structure, we can begin to reduce property taxes putting us more in line with our neighboring states. 97% of people would benefit from a graduated income tax and switching to a graduated income tax would bring in an additional $3-4 billion each year. Ensuring that the wealthiest in our state pay their share is a priority. When the graduated income tax amendment was on the ballot, there was so much intentional misinformation put out to mislead the public. If the General Assembly brings this issue up again, we need to make sure that people have accurate, factual, unbiased information regarding a graduated income tax so they can make informed decisions.