Jeanette Ward: Candidate profile, Illinois Senate 25th District
Republican Jeanette Ward of West Chicago, a former member of the school board in Elgin Area School District U-46, is challenging Democrat Karina Villa of West Chicago in the race for Illinois Senate from the 25th District.
The 25th District takes in parts of Aurora, Bartlett, Batavia, Big Rock, Campton Hills, Elburn, Elgin, Geneva, Lily Lake, Montgomery, Naperville, North Aurora, Oswego, Plano, Prestbury, South Elgin, St. Charles, Sugar Grove, Warrenville, Wayne, West Chicago, and Yorkville.
The Daily Herald recently asked the candidates a series of questions. Here are their replies.
For complete election coverage, visit dailyherald.com.
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: Without consulting the people's legislature and giving taxpayers a voice in these decisions via local representation, Gov. Pritzker has failed to be a consensus-building leader.
He has implemented rules by Executive Order that defy common sense and are not fairly applied across the board.
Why could a large crowd converge on Home Depot but only 50 people attend a church service? Why could a family of four drive to the local lake, but only two of them get in the same boat? Why could you buy flowers from a crowded Walmart, but your local florist is shuttered closed? The people's legislature should have had a say from the start.
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: Businesses should be allowed to open, fully, immediately. Unleashing the economic powerhouse that Illinois can be will increase tax revenue, as will reducing taxes, because more businesses and families will be able to afford to live here. I do not support raising taxes.
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: The "fair tax" is anything but "fair" and gives the legislature a blank check to raise taxes on families who are already leaving Illinois in record numbers. That it will reduce taxes for 97% of Illinoisans is utterly false. Illinois doesn't have a revenue problem. Illinois has a spending problem.
I will be voting NO on this so-called Progressive tax. It will aggressively attack our wallets and hurt our economy. Even the Democrat State Treasurer said that it opens the door to the ability to tax retirement income, which is a terrible idea that I strongly oppose. It is a double tax on our seniors who cannot afford it and don't deserve it.
A flat tax is equally applied to everyone. That is fair. By heavily taxing those who are successful, the result is chasing even more taxpayers, businesses, and job creators out of Illinois. And that will hurt the people who need good jobs and benefits to support their families.
Q: Do you support any type of tax on retirement benefits?
A: No. Retirees have already paid their taxes.
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, Illinois lawmakers should be prohibited from lobbying other levels of government. Lawmakers should also be prohibited from becoming lobbyists after their term in office. Eight years ought to be a sufficient time frame as it is also my suggestion for term limits.
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: In light of recent developments where ComEd admitted to bribing "Public Official A," who is the "speaker of the House of Representatives," ethics reform is beyond overdue. Term limits could remedy this; eight years in any particular office is a good place to start.
Mike Madigan has been in power a record 35 years, and he's been in office since 1971 -- two years before I was even born. My opponent also took $1.44M in campaign cash from committees controlled by him, and has refused to call for his resignation, claiming she is "not prepared to talk about it."
The scandal cost YOU, the taxpayer, with higher electric rates and no-show jobs awarded to Democrat party workers. The cost to taxpayers of corruption must be answered with swifter justice and longer sentences.
Fair maps where nonpartisan committees draw districts and voters choose their politicians, not the other way around, is best for our representative republic. Legislators shouldn't be able to lobby their colleagues in areas where they have a conflict of interest. Finally, the Speaker of the House should not also serve as his state party's chairman.
Q: What should the state do to address the still-growing problems with its key pension programs?
A: Pension reform is the number one fiscal necessity as it currently consumes a quarter of the budget. Illinois has anywhere from $137 billion to $250 billion, depending upon the rating agency, in unfunded pension liability.
While we must keep our promises to those who are near retirement age, we must also change our defined benefit system to a defined contribution system and ensure that double and triple dipping is ended.
This will require an amendment to the Illinois Constitution to repeal the pension protection clause as unsustainably mandated. If it is possible for Illinois and other states to encourage small businesses in the private sector to assist their employees to begin saving for retirement, it is plausible that similar programs be implemented for government employees. It is the only way we can begin to pull our state back from the brink of financial insolvency.
Q: Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should state government be taking to address the issue?
A: As I hold two degrees in environmental science, while many claim that the science is settled and there exists an overwhelming consensus that global warming is occurring and is definitively man-made, I know that the nature of honest scientific inquiry on such a massively complex question is far from settled.
What little temperature increase which may be occurring began before CO2 levels started increasing and the climate of the earth has gone through numerous cycles before the industrial revolution. Also, climate is influenced profoundly by factors on which humans have no influence, such as solar activity.
We must exercise extreme caution in our regulatory intervention lest we stifle innovation and the advancement of our society through draconian measures based upon extremist views on either side of the debate while at the same time, exercising prudence in the stewardship of our environment as we continue to explore all avenues of energy production -- solar, wind, nuclear, etc. Fossil energy revolutionized western civilization and I am confident that innovation will carry us forward to a bright future.
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: Our democratic society has been and is uniquely able to confront prejudice, weed out discrimination, and promote equality. While racism still exists in the hearts of some, I do not believe that systemic racism pervades our institutions or has been at the root of our current unrest.
As senator, I will be deeply committed to working to bring both law enforcement and communities of all colors to the same table, to build trust, understanding, and strong lines of communication. We must reject the language of division that has worked to tear apart this important relationship between police and the communities they serve and instead focus on our shared goal of living together in peace.
Defunding the police only serves to harm African American communities, and rioting and looting have also hit these communities disproportionately. Increased police presence in communities where this has been a problem will serve to maintain law and order so communities can thrive. Police need to be defended, not defunded.
I also support the full implementation of body cameras on all police officers. This protects the officer from false claims, and the public from any rogue officer abusing power.
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: My party assisted my primary opponent substantially. That alone should assure voters that I am an independent thinker.
Second, I continue to actively advocate for term limits.
Political leaders in both parties generally oppose, or at least downplay, this needed reform. I am willing to self-limit my service to 8 years. My opponent has not ever, to date, made a pledge, or public statement, on this issue.