Michelle Mussman: Candidate profile
Name: Michelle Mussman
Office sought: State Representative, House District 56
Family: Married, has three children.
Occupation: Full-time legislator
Education: B.S. in Design from the University of Cincinnati
Civic involvement: Full-time legislator; Schaumburg Business Association, member; Northwest Alliance on Domestic Violence, chair; Women In Need Growing Stronger (WINGS), leadership board; Children's Advocacy Center of North and Northwest Cook County, leadership board; Enders-Salk Parent Teacher Association, former president and treasurer, Schaumburg Township Council of Parent Teacher Associations, former first vice president.
Elected offices held: State Representative, 56th District, January 2011-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 requiring millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share, while cutting taxes for hard-working, middle-class families. In 2014, the people of my district strongly voted in favor of the Millionaire's Tax (60%), demonstrating that our community wants the ultra-wealthy to pay their fair share. With that additional revenue, we can fund our social services, pay down our backlog of bills and start moving the state forward; however, if we are going to implement a graduated income tax, every party needs to come to the table to figure out the details. The Trump-Rauner Republicans consistently claim that they support providing tax relief to working families, and if they truly want to provide tax relief then they have the responsibility to put the lives of our residents ahead of the wealthy-special interests that are funding their campaigns. I supported House Resolution 1025 so that we can have an educated conversation about what we need to do to reduce the tax burden on middle-class families. I will not vote for any proposal that increases taxes on the middle class, and voted against the 2017 income tax hike for that reason.
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?
When I go door-to-door, one of the biggest issues that the people of my community talk to me about are their high property taxes. That is why I carried legislation through the House (HB 156, 100th GA) that would not only freeze, but actually cut property taxes for all homeowners, as well as provide additional relief for our seniors and people with disabilities. I have dedicated a tremendous amount of time to try to relieve this burden on homeowners, which is why I also supported a series of measures from the 99th GA that would freeze property taxes. We have the responsibility to our residents to come up with true, comprehensive solutions that will reduce the financial pressure that the hard-working residents throughout Illinois are facing.
What is your evaluation of Gov. Rauner's job performance? Please specify what you view as its highs and lows.
For 2.5 years, the state went without a budget, and the governor did not actually sign a budget until 2018, the third year into his term. Running under court order and not implementing any of the spending reductions included in the numerous budget packages offered during that time frame caused our debt to swell to nearly $16 billion, negating any of the debt reduction that had occurred in previous years and setting our financial progress back significantly. It was an unconscionable and irresponsible waste of precious tax-payer dollars. During this time, the state's most vulnerable citizens, such as children with autism, our seniors and people with epilepsy, went without the essential services that they rely upon every day, businesses closed, and people lost jobs because the state could not pay its bills in a timely way. We cannot allow that to happen again, which is why I remain committed to working with both sides of the aisle to pass true, comprehensive solutions that will lift up the middle class and, ultimately, the entire state.
What is your evaluation of Speaker Michael Madigan's (President John Cullerton's) job performance? If you voted for him for speaker (president) in the last legislative session, please explain your vote.
Since the governor announced that he would be running several years ago, he has done nothing but divide our state government by playing political games with people's lives. He cut nearly 30,000 families off the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and put his harmful, anti-middle-class policy demands ahead of the lives of working women with breast and cervical cancer. We, as elected officials, have the responsibility to put politics aside and actually solve the problems facing our state, like our huge pension liabilities, gun violence, and the property tax burden that far too many homeowners have to face, and I will only support someone for speaker who shares those same concerns.
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?
I support term limits for all elected officials, not just legislative leaders, and I am open to supporting several different versions of that policy. I also support fair and independent maps (under the condition that the voice of minority voters is not suppressed), which will keep legislators more accountable to their voters instead of legislative leaders. We have seen this year
the power of bipartisanship when the legislature passed a consensus budget in the spring, and I hope we can continue that process, especially when putting together a balanced budget.
How concerned should we be about Illinois' population loss? What needs to be done to reverse the trend?
The population decline of the state is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. I think we made an important first step when members of the legislature from both parties voted to override the Governor's veto last summer to enact a state budget and also by passing a bipartisan budget earlier this year. I think another thing we need to look at to reverse this problem is to call on the governor and his extreme allies, such as my opponent, from constantly bashing the state using only negative rhetoric. While I am aware there are serious problems that need to be addressed, such as our backlog of bills, our high property taxes and our pension obligations, we need to be aware of how it appears when the Chief Executive Officer of the state does nothing but bash the state to potential investors and businesses that could relocate to Illinois. We need to highlight the great things about Illinois, like the fact that we were ranked one of the best states for working mothers and outranked all neighboring states by Business Insider in May 2017. We also need to keep the state moving forward and not get mired in political games. We have a responsibility to the people of our state to work together and come up with true, comprehensive solutions to fixing the state's problems, and absolutely avoid the gridlock that led the state to go without a budget for 2.5 years.
Please provide one example that demonstrates your independence from your party.
Protecting middle-class families from over taxation is one of my top priorities, which is why I opposed the income tax rate hike that was implemented in 2017, despite support for the increase by my party leadership. There are serious problems facing our state, and, if we are going to fix those problems and repair the damage that was done by Governor Rauner's budget crisis, then we have the responsibility to our residents to work across the aisle. The partisan gridlock needs to stop.
What other issues are important to you as a candidate for this office?
One of the most important issues to me is making sure that middle-class families are protected from the extreme, Trump-Rauner agenda. The far-right, like my opponent and her extreme campaign donors, are attempting to make it more difficult for women to access important healthcare services, such as breast and cervical cancer screenings and contraceptive coverage, cut funding for services that help people with developmental disabilities, and implement policies that would directly cut well-deserved wages for middle-class families. We need to stand against the extreme, greed-based policies of the far-right, which is why I oppose the union-busting goals of my opponent and her allies. If we are truly going to lift up the middle class, then we need to be supporting small and medium-sized businesses, investing in our schools from pre-K to our state universities, and protecting worker's rights.
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?
I think that deciding to run for office is one of the most difficult decisions I have made, and I am sure that a lot of other elected officials would agree. It is not easy to put yourself out there, and it can be very hard on your family and loved ones. The situation was made even more difficult during the 2.5 years of the budget crisis because of all of the unnecessary pain and suffering caused by the Governor holding the state hostage for his anti-middle-class agenda. I think that is why so many legislators have retired this year. But running for office is also one of the best decisions I have made. I truly get to make a real difference in my community by helping my constituents with issues they face, voting to protect middle-class families and passing meaningful legislation on important issues like campus sexual assault and property tax relief. It really is a privilege to serve as state representative, and I hope I have the honor of continuing to do so during the next General Assembly.
Who is your hero?
Every day that I go door-to-door, I meet amazing people who are working so hard. These are parents who have children with developmental disabilities, veterans who have served our country and need access to healthcare services, young students who have their own political ambitions, small business owners who took a financial risk and are now running a highly successful business, and so many others. Far too frequently, these people do not get the recognition that they deserve, and that is why I have made it the theme of the annual Women's History Month Event I host each March, entitled Hidden Gems in Our Community. We celebrate what makes our everyday neighbors special.
Each amendment in the Bill of Rights is important, but which one of those 10 is most precious to you?
As a mother, I could never choose a favorite of my children, and I feel pretty similar about the Bill of Rights! No one right is more important than another because they are all founded on the principal that an individual has the right to freedom of speech, expression, property and physical autonomy, under the condition that you aren't taking away someone else's rights. I think the Bill of Rights all together is one of the things that makes our country so great.
What lesson of youth has been most important to you as an adult?
I think we can all learn from the youth of today to be open and accepting of others. If we are going to improve our state, we need to constantly be open to other people's opinions and values. The only reason why the governor's 2.5 year budget crisis ended was because a group of bipartisan legislators had the courage to join together and say enough is enough.
Think back to a time you failed at something. What did you learn from it?
Perseverance is the lesson best learned from a setback. For 2.5 years the state went without a budget because Governor Rauner refused come to the middle on any issues. He went into office making demands without fully understanding what his job entailed and how to do it. Seeing the pain that was inflicted on the state's most vulnerable citizens, such as working women with breast and cervical cancer screenings, seniors who rely upon home-delivered meals and low-income college students, made me more sensitive to and even more determined to protect them. 12 million people rely on us to make important decisions every single day, and we have the responsibility to put politics aside so that we can help the people who are relying upon us the most.