Seth Lewis: Candidate profile, Illinois House 45th District
Republican Seth Lewis, a Bartlett insurance agent, is taking on incumbent Democrat Diane Pappas of Itasca in the Illinois House 45th District.
Q: Should Speaker Madigan resign from his leadership positions? If he does not resign, will you support him for a new term as House speaker?
A: I think Speaker Madigan needs to resign from his leadership positions, and if indicted he should resign from the General Assembly. I will not vote for him for Speaker of the House.
Madigan has been in the Illinois Legislature since 1971 and has been Speaker since 1983. I believe Speaker Madigan has lost the public trust since he's been implicated in a bribery scandal, he has ignored sexual harassment in his office and political operations, all the while my opponent has been silent on these issues with the Speaker because she continues to financially benefit.
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: Since I am not a politician, I haven't had too many circumstances with which to show my independence. However, when I was a candidate for the State Senate in 2016, I disagreed with attempts to restrict collective bargaining rights, thereby bucking some in my political party.
Most recently, I have called on a Republican elected official to resign since he had been federally indicted in a kickback scheme. I have consistently called out corruption in both parties because it's the right thing to do.
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 would you have done differently, if anything? If nothing, please say so.
A: The governor acted swiftly to combat the pandemic in our state. He used his 30-day emergency power to ensure our hospital capacity could meet the ongoing needs to combat the pandemic. But the longer this has gone on, the more displeasure I have with some of the governor's actions. The Executive Orders and DCEO Guidance has, at times, become unclear and inconsistent with common sense.
I would have involved the legislature, since that is the branch of government entrusted to write the laws, in order to come to consensus on establishing rules and policies intended to stop the spread of the disease.
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: The state and its units of local government are seeing diminished sales tax revenues, and that will most certainly impact everything from municipal bond ratings, to depleting of "rainy day" funds; from small business disruption grants, to home and business evictions.
We all should understand this pandemic was nobody's fault, and everyone should be helped. However, I do not support a tax increase for this epidemic. The federal government should utilize the trillions of dollars already distributed for COVID-19 relief and open up the allowable uses for those dollars.
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: I do not trust the Illinois General Assembly with an unregulated graduated tax structure because it does not protect against future tax hikes imposed by the General Assembly. As the state treasurer said earlier this year, a graduated tax would allow for a tax on retirement income.
I am opposed to a tax on retirement income. There could also be attempts by future governors and future general assemblies to burden the middle class with higher and higher taxes.
Q: Do you support any type of tax on retirement benefits?
A: I oppose taxing retirement income. This issue has come up, most recently in discussions over the proposed Graduated Income Tax. Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs said publicly at an event earlier this year, "one thing a progressive tax would do is make clear you can have graduated rates when you are taxing retirement income." Seniors rely on their retirement income and the state should not tax it.
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. If you are a lobbyist, be a lobbyist; don't be an elected official and a lobbyist. I believe we should have a cooling-off period of one year for this activity. Overall, I believe we need to tighten ethics in Springfield -- such as a stronger gift ban, regulations on prohibited political activity, and stronger revolving door policies for legislators becoming lobbyists.
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: One idea is to prohibit candidates for office -- both challengers and incumbents -- from using campaign contributions to pay for legal defense costs which arise out of the politicians' own misconduct and corruption.
I will introduce a bill to prohibit candidates from using campaign contributions for legal defense purposes.
Another area I will explore is how campaigns for state office justify their messaging during the election season, especially as it relates to negative attack ads on their opponents. I believe my opponent has lost her moral compass by resorting to such negative and untrue statements about my integrity and character.
Q: What should the state do to address the still-growing problems with its key pension programs?
A: The reality is the Illinois Legislature has tried pension reform, and the Supreme Court has struck down changing pensions for those currently enrolled in the system. As of now, the only practical option is for the Illinois General Assembly to prioritize pension payments to pay down the backlog and get the funding ratio increased.
As an engineer, I look to successful models for ideas. One of those is the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, which is 90%+ funded and manages their investments very well.
Their board sets actuarial estimates for employer contributions, whereas the General Assembly appropriates employers' contributions in the annual budgets. Years of underfunding the pension systems is precisely why Illinois has a budget problem. The victims are the dedicated and hardworking state employees.
Q: Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should state government be taking to address the issue?
A: As an engineer, I understand the concept of cause and effect. When you add more than 7.5 billion human beings worldwide, who generate pollutants into our Earth's atmosphere and environment, I believe there is an effect to be quantified.
I value our clean water and environment, and I support efforts to reduce our output and our footprint. However, those efforts need to be balanced with other considerations, such as making Illinois uncompetitive for jobs, placing burdensome regulations on small businesses, and causing more jobs to move out of state.
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: I believe we need more manufacturing jobs and employment opportunities for disadvantaged groups. This could mean instituting or improving an existing MBE/DBE (Minority Business Enterprise or Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) program, instituting better hiring practices which recruit from underserved communities, and enhance workforce development policies to get more Black and brown Illinoisans connected with employers and job training centers.
I believe we need our local law enforcement, since they are critical to the safety of our communities.
I am open to evaluating how resources are allocated within our public safety organizations. However, I oppose all calls to defund and eliminate the police.