Name: Peter Breen
Name: Peter Breen
Office sought: State Representative, 48th District
Family: Margie, wife, married over 13 years; Matthew, son, age 2
Occupation: Constitutional Attorney & State Representative
Education: Juris Doctor, University of Notre Dame; Bachelor of Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Vanderbilt University; Diploma, Naperville North High School
Civic involvement: Sacred Heart Church, Lombard
Fr. Boecker Council Knights of Columbus, Lombard
Elected offices held:
State Representative, 2015-present, Floor Leader, 2017-present
Trustee, 2011-2014, & Acting President, 2012-2013, Village of Lombard
Questions & Answers
Would you vote to approve a graduated income tax? If so, what qualifiers would you impose and where would you set the brackets? What would the top tax rate be?
Absolutely not. Illinois imposes the highest combined tax burden on middle income people of any state in the country. Less than 2 years ago, Mike Madigan raised the state income tax 32%, and he and his enablers haven't shown any manner of fiscal restraint since then. The graduated income tax structures of other states would devastate the people of my district, where rates could go from the current 4.95%, up to 6.5%, or up to 8% or more. Adding a graduated income tax also removes any incentive to change the spending practices of our severely bloated government.
How big a problem is the level of property taxation in Illinois? If you view it as a problem, what should be done about it?
We need to save our homes, by immediately lowering and capping property taxes. In home after home I encounter families, and especially seniors, who simply cannot continue to keep up with the rising property taxes in DuPage County. There are few if any incentives to have the government bodies on the property tax bill freeze or reduce the levies annually. The caps still provide a multiplier effect that have compounded to a level beyond control. Every government body on the tax bill needs to embrace a policy of accomplishing as much or more with less tax resources through more efficient spending and practices. There are examples of this occurring with DuPage County and a few other areas. Local government boards have ingrained thinking that they must max out their levies annually, lest they'll lose resources the next year, and they'll compound over years into "money they'll never get back." That brand of thinking is as wrong as it is wide spread. As a Village Trustee, I led the effort to freeze our property tax levy successfully, for the first time in 20 years, and voted against attempts to raise it during my four years there. (My opponent in this election voted to increase taxes eight straight years while on a local government board, including casting the deciding vote to hike taxes several years.) The opposition to that thinking was passionate. Boards seemed to forget that their accountability and responsibility is to the citizenry, the taxpayers who elect them; not the bureaucracies they were elected to oversee. This has proven dangerous and financially disastrous for town after town which had little incentive to trim costs or seek savings.
What is your evaluation of Gov. Rauner's job performance? Please specify what you view as its highs and lows.
Our state government has suffered for decades in the grip of a political ruling class dedicated to maintaining its own power. The Governor entered into this very difficult situation in 2015, with Speaker Madigan and his Democrats in supermajority control of both chambers of the General Assembly. The result of the collision between the proverbial "unstoppable force" that is the Governor with the "immovable object" that is the Speaker has been predictably messy. As to the particular decisions and actions of the Governor, hindsight is 20/20, and I've agreed with him sometimes and disagreed with him other times. I prefer to look to the future, to the electoral decision in front of the people of Illinois this November. The distinction between the candidates is stark: JB Pritzker would continue Madigan's trend of loading more tax increases and more wasteful government spending onto the backs of folks in my district, while Bruce Rauner will stand against those tax and spending hikes.
What is your evaluation of Speaker Michael Madigan's job performance? If you voted for him for speaker in the last legislative session, please explain your vote.
I did not vote for Speaker Madigan, and I wouldn't ever vote for him. The poor policies and abysmal governing of this state are rooted in the Speaker's tenure and power in that position. So much good legislation dies in the committee process, and so many politically expedient, poorly conceived bills come to the Floor, because of his House Rules. Those Rules are an insult to the legislative process of a free society -- I've said repeatedly that, "the Illinois House Rules are so anti-democratic they'd make Vlad Putin blush." As well, to pass a worthwhile policy, a sponsor must often agree to have the bill loaded up with spending we cannot afford or policy that would never pass on its own merits. As stated, it's an insult to the legislative process and a greater insult to the people we serve. Consolidating the power of an entire state into the hands of one State Representative, elected in one district for nearly half a century, is among the most dysfunctional circumstances in the history of American government.
Should there be term limits for legislative leaders? If so, what would you do to make that happen? What other systemic changes should be made to strengthen the voice of individual legislators, limit the control of legislative leaders, encourage bipartisanship?
There should be term limits for every legislator in addition to leaders. Such legislation is always going to be stalled in committee under Speaker Mike Madigan, who is nearing his 5th decade in the General Assembly. He's fought every citizen submitted referendum effort seeking to reform our government. If Madigan controls the legislative map, and maintains such a strong majority, there is little that can be done to solve this problem. We should work to require Fair Maps for the General Assembly, and I've authored a constitutional amendment to do just that, HJRCA 46. The most expedient way, however, is to elect more Republican members who will enact the reform legislation that large majorities of our residents want. With a majority -- or even a strong minority joined by a handful of brave Democrats -- we can also make needed reforms to the Rules to ensure that members' bills on all subjects can be fully debated and votes taken on the House Floor. Despite the severe handicaps in the current system, I have been able to sponsor and shepherd into law 32 bipartisan bills during my two terms in the General Assembly. I've also been fortunate to be able to work with a number of Democratic colleagues on good legislation that has wide ranging appeal. I'm willing to work with any member, on any side of the aisle, to advance legislation that helps the people of our state.
How concerned should we be about Illinois' population loss? What needs to be done to reverse the trend?
We should be terribly alarmed by our population loss. Our consumer base is powerful. But as we lose residents, the corporate and business base follows them out of state. Our start-up businesses, our education opportunities, and employment opportunities will all suffer. Reversing the trend means making Illinois a more hospitable place to live, with regard to our taxing policy, and a better place to start, expand, and run a business. Our border state neighbors take full advantage of our poor policies with regard to property taxes, sales taxes, fees, and regulations. When a huge corporation chooses a location a few miles north in Kenosha County, it takes advantage of our highly skilled, highly educated work force, but another state realizes the lion's share of the benefits of that corporation. Many residents will move a few miles to take even greater advantage of lower tax policies overall, and a lower cost of living. This scenario continues to happen to Illinois. We have to lower the tax burden. Create policy that offers businesses a long-term vision of an Illinois that is hospitable to them and their growth. These are things that could happen quickly with the right governance. The reasons for not doing so are utterly selfish and self-dealing government policies. It's not too late yet, but we are absolutely on the verge of passing a point where it is.
Please provide one example that demonstrates your independence from your party.
I had to fight the establishment of my party to win election to the General Assembly in 2014, and I've been repeatedly recognized as an independent voice since then. Most recently, I bucked my party on the $39.7 billion state spending measure. That legislation added to our unpaid bill backlog, spent $1.2 billion more than we have available, and clearly violated our state constitution's Balanced Budget requirement. I sympathize with the argument that Madigan and the Democrats wouldn't agree to a level of spending that was within the amount of money we have available. But the people of my district send roughly three times as much money to Springfield as they get back in services, and the spending frenzy in the Capitol has to stop. I couldn't in good conscience support that bloated measure.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
We have to restore faith and confidence in Illinois government, at every level. That means exposing the self-dealing that has corrupted our government, and putting a stop to the out-of-control spending and taxing that are bleeding the people of our district dry.
In addition, here a few questions meant to provide more personal insight into you as a person:
What's the hardest decision you ever had to make?
In my life, plenty of decisions seemed harder at the time than they look now in the rearview mirror. Some of the toughest at the time were the decision of where to go to college and law school and whether to take or leave a particular job. While life has brought many joys and sorrows over the nearly fourteen years since, it wasn't hard to decide to marry my beautiful wife Margie fourteen years ago or for us to engage the adoption process, which after several years culminated in our son, Matthew, who is now a very adventurous two-year-old.
Who is your hero?
My heroes are my parents. My mom and dad sacrificed greatly for their three kids. They saved for many years, from before we were born, to give us a great education and upbringing, including helping pay for college. My siblings and I took full advantage of that sacrifice and example, using our top-notch educations to build a foundation for successful lives today. Because of that, we have all been able to find opportunities to stay in the western suburbs, near our parents and one another. I want to turn Illinois around, so that every family can have those same opportunities.
Each amendment in the Bill of Rights is important, but which one of those 10 is most precious to you?
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The First Amendment contains many of the core protections necessary for a free society. And respect for the spirit of these protections is a hallmark of a well-functioning legislature. Unfortunately, the members of the majority in the Illinois House have continually whittled away at the idea of robust and free debate by imposing successively more draconian House Rules, unduly restricting debate and preventing bills from seeing the light of day. Especially when blocking important items with broad public support, like term limits, redistricting reform, spending restraint, and real property tax relief, the House majority strikes against the spirit of the First Amendment and the principles underlying our democracy.
What lesson of youth has been most important to you as an adult?
Keep moving. You're either growing or dying, never in stasis. I've sometimes run into trouble moving a little too fast, but age and experience has taught me to do a better job with pacing.
Think back to a time you failed at something. What did you learn from it?
Failure teaches you a lot more than success. What I've learned from failure is how to manage your emotions going in and coming out of a situation. There's a risk of so thoroughly tying your self-worth to an endeavor that you are entirely crushed by a setback or failure, but there's also the opposite risk of not engaging hard enough or deeply enough that you sabotage your efforts. Going into any significant situation, I like to clearly and vividly assess the possibility of failure, mentally accept the consequences of that possible failure, and then proceed with confidence that I'll be fine whatever the outcome. If I can't do that, it's a sign that I may want to avoid the situation altogether or resolve it in a different way.