Thomas 'Tom' Morrison: Candidate profile, Illinois House 54th District
Incumbent Republican Thomas "Tom" Morrison faces a challenge from Democrat Maggie Trevor, a Rolling Meadows market research consultant, in the race for Illinois House from the 54th District, which takes in parts of Arlington Heights, Barrington, Deer Park, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg, and South Barrington. To explore their campaign websites, check morrison4staterep.com and maggietrevor4il54.net.
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: Yes. Michael Madigan must, at a minimum, step down from his position as House Speaker. I have publicly called for this to happen since last year due to the mounting evidence of corruption, conflicts of interest and unethical behavior that surrounds Madigan's official and campaign operations. His chairmanship of the Democratic Party of Illinois -- its fundraising, campaign staff and organization -- also gives him undue influence over Democratic Senate and House members, as well as other critical elected positions throughout the state.
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: During the now infamous 2016 ComEd/Exelon bailout bill episode in Springfield, I refused to remain silent as the bipartisan bill was ramrodded through the House and Senate during lame duck session. On each of the bill's numerous amendments, I filed fiscal notes to slow the bill and to try to determine how much it would actually cost the state's taxpayers, along with residential/commercial ratepayers.
I was publicly critical of the lack of transparency to get it passed, including from Rauner administration agency officials. I was one of only 10 lawmakers who opposed the near unanimous confirmation of Auditor General Frank Mautino, who shortly thereafter became the subject of federal investigations around suspicious campaign financial transactions of hundreds of thousands of dollars to himself and campaign staff.
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: A once per century pandemic would severely challenge any governor. I think he is doing what he thinks is best to control the spread of the virus. There remains a constitutional question about whether he's exceeded his authority by continually issuing new EO's. This could be resolved with legislative hearings and legislation to clarify the governor's authority.
The governor and his team are trying to prevent COVID-19 spread, but I don't believe they're adequately considering unintended consequences of other public health or economic concerns. There are growing problems related to isolation, depression, increased drug and alcohol usage, domestic abuse, delayed diagnoses of fatal diseases, job loss leading to financial collapse, for example. The state can and must protect its most vulnerable citizens while limiting unintended harms to its other residents, including children, who are less at risk.
I'm also concerned that, as a billionaire who inherited his fortune, he is too insulated from the consequences of his policy decisions. He should better listen to working families with school-aged children and small businesses in the state that are barely clinging to survival.
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: Based on many past poor decisions, the state's economic outlook was already worrisome. We were hanging on, however, and even making a little progress, due to a strong national economy that lifted our state's economy along with it. We had no serious rainy day fund going into the pandemic (in contrast to so many other states), due to Illinois' unwillingness to cut or reform state spending when revenues grew. Illinois can no longer put off the spending reforms that would help it manage a reduction in revenues and erosion of its residential and commercial tax base.
The governor should work with the state's unions to temporarily freeze pay increases to state workers. It should provide mandate relief to K-12 schools, public universities and local governments to allow for more efficient operation. It should do the same for private businesses so that they can accommodate their increased costs at the same time their expenses have increased while their customer base has shrunk due to "safer-at-home" orders. Increasing taxes now would make a bad situation even worse. Too many residents and businesses already are overtaxed, and this would push even more into moving or shutting down.
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: Voters should not trust the legislature to confine itself to taxing only the upper 3% of income earners at higher rates. Without any kind of serious state-level spending reforms or reforms for local government, the overall tax burden for the majority of Illinoisans will increase over time. That will happen because the state has failed to reform its spending practices, and it continues to lose population and private sector investment. Increasing taxes on businesses and higher income earners (who have the easiest ability to move) will only expedite the out-migration and force the legislature to increase taxes on a larger and larger percentage of the population to make up the difference.
The graduated tax rates and income levels passed by the legislature last year can be easily altered in the future with a simple majority vote. The legislature did that when it simply eliminated the 2015 and 2024 sunsetting rates of the 2011 "temporary" income tax increase. The current General Assembly leadership, majority of General Assembly members, and the governor will continue to spend with abandon, and therefore, they do not deserve the public's trust.
Q: Do you support any type of tax on retirement benefits?
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. Elected officials should not be allowed to concurrently serve as lobbyists. There should be at least a two-year ban on lobbying after an individual exits the elected position.
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: There should be a limit on the length of time a lawmaker can serve as a legislative committee, caucus, or chamber leader (committee chair, House Speaker, Senate President, minority leader, for example). A legislative chamber leader should not also be able to be the head of his or her state political party, because that position would lead to undue influence over official action and members of the legislature. There should be greater transparency and action taken to reveal and prevent real or potential conflicts of interest that exist between an individual's official position and their privately derived sources of income.
Q: What should the state do to address the still-growing problems with its key pension programs?
A: Illinois lawmakers need to finally level with the general public, as well as public sector employees and retirees; these unfunded pension liabilities are unsustainable, will continue to deplete resources for current needs, and will continue to force taxpayers to pay more and get less in return. At the same time, the legislature should push for every constitutionally permissible pension reform possible at the state and local level. It must also pursue amending the state constitution to permit changes to public sector pensions on a go-forward basis.
Q: Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should state government be taking to address the issue?
A: Scientists still disagree about how much human activity is responsible for climate change. We know that the climate has been in flux for at least many millennia, well before the industrial age, and these changes have happened by naturally occurring phenomena. With billions of people and developing economies around the world contributing to overall human activity, Illinois' efforts to legislatively address climate change would just impose a heavy burden on its own residents, while having almost zero impact on the world.
We can look at California and its aggressive efforts to mandate reliance on intermittent wind and solar power, creating rolling blackouts as demand has soared while generating capacity dropped off. Battery storage is an expensive, extremely temporary, and non-environmentally-friendly Band-Aid.
New mandates on housing and transportation significantly raise costs on the very populations who can least afford to pay them. Official policy that helps our state and its residents prepare for or best adapt to climate change should be the preferable path. At the same time, energy efficiencies and new, cleaner technologies can be adopted by consumer and business choice.
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: One of the great equalizers for society is an opportunity to get a good education, regardless of ZIP code. I have supported efforts to ensure that impoverished inner city families, regardless of race, would have the ability to escape failing or dangerous schools. Constant emphasis on race and racial differences undermines the real progress that's been made in the U.S. since the civil rights victories that began in the 1950s and 1960s. It breeds resentment and distrust across racial lines rather than helping us to see ourselves as one American melting pot.
When the protests have turned deadly and destructive, the very cities, neighborhoods, and populations in question are the ones who ultimately suffer the most. Police officers are tasked with increasingly dangerous and difficult duties, and the tragic mistakes or illegal actions of a few officers should not be used as judgments on the entire law enforcement profession.
The problems of violence and societal ills will require multifaceted and potential decades' long work to overcome. It will require cooperation and good will from individuals, families, nonprofits, governments and businesses.