Deb Conroy: Candidate profile
Name: Deb Conroy
City: Villa Park
Office sought: Illinois House, District 46
Family: Husband, Tim, and four son
Occupation: State legislator
Education: York Community High School. Courses at College of DuPage and Columbia College.
Civic involvement: York Student Enrichment Team Co-Founder; former Religious Education teacher at Mary Queen of Heaven Catholic Church; Elmhurst Children's Assistance Foundation Board Member; Cool Kiddie Cars charity event project manager
Elected offices: District 205 School Board, 2007-2011. State Representative, 46th District, 2013-present.
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?
I support initiatives that would reduce the tax burden on the middle class while requiring the ultra-wealthy to pay their fair share. Our current tax structure is regressive, and disproportionately impacts middle income families while giving millionaires and billionaires a break. Anyone who truly believes that we need to reduce the tax burden on the middle class should come to the table to negotiate a fairer tax structure, as studies show that a fair tax could reduce the tax burden for 90-98% of Illinois families.
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?
Property taxes continue to be a top issue on the minds of DuPage County families. I have supported reforms that would freeze property taxes and cut property taxes on middle-class homeowners, seniors and veterans. I support further efforts to hold the line on property taxes to ensure that DuPage County can be a place for the middle-class to call home. I voted for additional state funding for education and our local schools to pave the way for long-term property tax relief. I have also worked at the state level to allow counties like DuPage to consolidate and streamline government services to make local governments more cost efficient. I have been a vocal opponent of and co-sponsored House Resolution 27 to oppose so-called pension cost shift plans that would drastically increase property taxes for suburban homeowners.
What is your evaluation of Gov. Rauner's job performance? Please specify what you view as its highs and lows.
The governor has made it clear that he's not in charge, and those are his own words, not mine. Regardless of how the governor chooses to focus his efforts, I am focused on working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and my community to deliver real solutions for the people I represent. I am focused on common sense gun safety reforms, investments in our state's mental health care system, and responsible budget solutions like the balanced and bipartisan budget plan passed this spring.
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.
My race for State Representative is not about Governor Rauner or Speaker Madigan or any other elected official or political candidate, regardless of how third party special interest groups would like to make it seem. Nor is my race about partisan disagreements. My race is about real solutions that families in my district care about -- helping middle class families make ends meet, encouraging local businesses to expand and create jobs here, and protecting healthcare for the thousands of families who rely on affordable coverage but suffer from a pre-existing condition -- and the opportunity we have to elect leaders who will stand up and fight.
My choice for Speaker of the House will always be about the person best positioned to fight for the middle class and stand up to Washington special interests. Particularly now, as Donald Trump and his allies attempt to bring his anti-middle class, anti-woman, anti-worker agendas to the state level, I will side with those who stand up for the middle class, women, and the most vulnerable among us every time.
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?
In general, I worry that term limits could result in the unintended consequence of empowering lobbyists and staff. I support initiatives to make elections more competitive by strengthening our campaign finance laws and enact independent redistricting reforms. I am supportive of leadership term limits.
How concerned should we be about Illinois' population loss? What needs to be done to reverse the trend?
We need to do more to keep business and people in the state, and there is no simple solution. First, we must properly invest in our K-12 schools, vocational and technical education programs and our institutions of higher education. Students must have the stability and reassurance that if they stay in Illinois for college, their MAP grants will be funded and their tuition won't skyrocket. Once those students graduate, we need to make sure that we are creating economic opportunity to incentivize these young people to stay in Illinois to pursue their career and start a family. I support state investments in education because we've seen that an educated workforce attracts long-term economic investment in our state.
We need to encourage businesses of all sizes to grow, expand and create jobs here. It's why I supported initiatives that require the state to prioritize Illinois-made products and supported legislation cracking down on corporations that take state-funded tax credits only to move jobs out of state or overseas. I will continue to support tax and fee cuts on the small and medium sized businesses that employ the majority of our workers. We must invest in our infrastructure, which is the key to keeping good-paying jobs here in Illinois.
Please provide one example that demonstrates your independence from your party.
I've never had a problem standing up to either party when it comes to defending my community. I vehemently opposed school funding reform proposals that would have hurt DuPage County schools.
What other issues are important to you as a candidate for this office?
Last year, I founded the House Mental Health Committee as its first Chairperson. Issues surrounding mental health, addiction and substance abuse are important throughout Illinois, but especially in our suburban communities. Our committee has been working on several initiatives to improve access to mental health care and ensure that insurance companies treat mental health with the same care as physical health. We have a long way to go, but we are making tangible progress and for the first time really looking at mental health as the root cause of so many of our state's challenges, from health care to the recidivism rate to employment to substance abuse.
I also co-founded the first-ever House Democratic Women's Caucus and have been working with colleagues and women in the Capitol to change the culture and promote women into leadership roles. It's extremely important to me that everyone feels safe at work, and that we are recognizing the accomplishments and potential of everyone regardless of gender.
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?
The hardest decision I ever made was also my easiest -- the decision to become a live organ donor to my ex-husband and the father of our four boys. We have known for a long time that Tim would eventually need a new kidney. I didn't hesitate to undergo the tests to determine if I was a match, and while it was a no-brainer to go through with the donation, it was also incredibly scary. There is certainly a lack of information and awareness out there about live organ donation. Three months later, everything has so far turned out well -- I'm feeling great, and Tim's health has substantially improved. Most importantly, our boys will have their father. I am hopeful that our family's experience can be used to show others that live donation is a viable option for the many families awaiting a donor.
Who is your hero?
I still think of the lessons my dad taught me nearly every day. He was my hero and my biggest cheerleader throughout my entire life, and his influence and faith in me is something I still carry close to me.
Each amendment in the Bill of Rights is important, but which one of those 10 is most precious to you?
I am a firm believer in the First Amendment as the foundation of our democracy.
What lesson of youth has been most important to you as an adult?
Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react.
Think back to a time you failed at something. What did you learn from it?
I first ran for this office in 2010. I put my all into it, but I wasn't successful. It was disappointing to work so hard and have things not turn out the way you want them to. I met amazing people along the way and learned more about the people in my community than most people ever have the opportunity to do. I share this experience often when I visit local classrooms. My failure in 2010 motivated me to keep going, to work harder, and to appreciate the successes that would come in the future even more. Failure can overcome you or it can be channeled into new energy to accomplish your goals