Amy Grant: Candidate profile, Illinois State House -- 42nd District
In the race for Illinois House from District 42, one-term incumbent Amy Grant, a Republican from Wheaton, is facing a challenge from Democrat Ken Mejia-Beal, of Lisle.
Grant, who previously served six years on the DuPage County Board, was elected to the 42nd District in 2018.
To explore her campaign website, visit electamygrant.com.
The district includes all or parts of Wheaton, Winfield, Carol Stream, Warrenville, Lisle, West Chicago and Naperville.
The Daily Herald asked the candidates a series of questions. Here are Grant's responses.
For complete election coverage, visit dailyherald.com and click on "Election Central."
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: The corruption in Illinois has become so systemic and accepted within our government operation, sadly it took a federal investigation to uncover and honestly pursue the corruption.
Everyone who participated is to blame. Everyone who benefited is to blame. Ethics reforms should start and revolve around the money that is traded and transferred to keep these illegal transactions in place. All of this corruption is designed to generate more mother's milk of campaign funds to maintain a corrupt status quo.
Ethics reform needs to deal directly and comprehensively enough to eliminate both the need and requirement of this money.
It's hideous what is being spent on elections and the expectations are even more hideous. So many of these people are former legislators who've joined the supply side of the corrupt money. That needs to end too.
Speaker Madigan should resign in my opinion, but he hasn't asked me for any advice. If term limits were in place, we wouldn't need to ask anyone about anyone else's resignation.
No, I would not support him as House Speaker.
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: I have only served one term, but my experience with my party leaders is one where they haven't "demanded" me to do anything that I can immediately recall.
I've never been told not to work across the aisle, and I'm always looking for an opportunity to do so. I will always listen to a reasonable argument that makes sense for our residents.
I have some good friends whom I admire on the other side and we often discuss areas where we can work together. We have had many thorough discussions in caucus meetings where different points of view are welcomed and encouraged. This too, has been a very unique session with the virus canceling so much of our session time.
I'd be willing and able to act independently without any doubt. It just hasn't come up in this session.
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: As a former teacher, I think I'll answer this more in a pass/fail grading scale.
The governor passes, but not with flying colors. I watched the daily updates carefully for several weeks.
His constant criticism of the federal response disturbed me since I saw with my own eyes that a hospital was built at McCormick Place within days and the hospitals and facilities in my district were getting much needed supplies.
I was truly grateful for all of the responses at all levels of government with the extreme pressure and uncertainty of the crisis.
Being mapped into an area with all of Chicago and Cook County for advancing through the governor's phases struck me as particularly unfair considering the vast differences between cases in DuPage County vs. Cook County. That has been rectified, so I'm grateful for the appropriate change.
I would advise him to be more engaged with legislators in all regions. Illinois is a very diverse state with vastly different conditions in different areas. One size fits all will never be effective here. Be sensitive to each area.
That said, I don't wish to harshly criticize anyone who's truly trying their best to help during a pandemic.
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: Illinois went into the crisis of the pandemic very poorly prepared, without a rainy-day fund or emergency fund of any kind. We've had unbalanced budgets and deficit spending for as long as the eye can see.
The past two years we had higher than anticipated revenue from sales and income tax and that money was instantly absorbed into the deficit spending and not toward any long-term debt we have. I'm concerned, but handing over more tax dollars to a body that has shown no fiscal responsibility or accountability is not prudent to me. We should do what other states have had to do. Make appropriate decisions to move money where it's needed most.
We're in the top 2 states in the nation taxing our residents. That cannot be the only option we ever look to.
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 support the graduated tax. It barely reduces tax to anyone and it will raise taxes significantly on others. It removes the only safeguard there is in the Illinois Constitution to curb the appetite of an undisciplined legislature that only will need a simple majority to tax people at any income level, any tax rate they wish.
No assurances can be given to voters. We have a governor who is spending over $50 million dollars of his own money to push this tax policy that we will have to live with. It won't take long to get to the heart of the middle class with higher income taxes since that is where the vast amount of our state income is. This is a terrible idea.
Q: Do you support any type of tax on retirement benefits?
A: No! Most states don't have the overwhelming overall tax burden of Illinois prior to retiring.
In my experiences with retired people, we are already seeing them moving or seriously considering moving from Illinois because of crushing property taxes to their single most valuable asset: their home.
As with the graduated tax rates, this kind of move would open the door to decide what number actually defines "wealthiest." Too often in this state that is defined not by the actual income, but by what's the number that will increase the revenue enough in any given year. It's always a magic bullet theory here; gaming taxes, medical marijuana, and then recreational marijuana tax revenue.
After instituting all of these new taxes, we sink further into debt. The money is spent before we even collect it.
Upper income seniors are a very important demographic for how much they already spend and pay taxes on anything and everything they purchase, use, or consume. Much of their income has been already taxed along the way.
Not taxing retirement income was once considered and issue of fairness and an incentive to urge people to retire in Illinois. Taxing it now is very shortsighted thinking.
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, lawmakers should not be lobbying other levels of government. I'm assuming you're asking this question with the caveat they are benefiting or being paid to lobby other levels.
There are plenty of circumstances where lawmakers must advocate for our state issues with federal or municipal bodies, I don't consider that "lobbying." A lawmaker leaving office should wait at least two years, a legislative term, before being able to register as a lobbyist. I'm sponsoring a bill on this very issue.
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 are plenty. Fair maps, term limits, campaign contributions, lobbying reform, legislative rules, and countless others.
Reform bills rarely even see the light of day or live for a day in one chamber only to die the next in the other. It's like a cute game that isn't cute at all to the people of Illinois who suffer from unethical shenanigans. I'll co-sponsor, support and vote for any meaningful and material bill that creates any degree of ethical reform in Illinois.
I have, only to see them die a cruel death in committee, never get a hearing or suffer death in the Senate after passing them in the House only for the purpose of the Speaker sending mailers out in favor of his candidates.
I've seen my colleagues on the other side disingenuously state they've voted over a dozen times for property tax reform. Too cute by half. This desperately needs fixing.
Q: What should the state do to address the still-growing problems with its key pension programs?
A: We have liabilities because we didn't fund them and in some cases they weren't managed well. We need to improve in both areas. Too often there have been pension holidays and these expenses were treated as "optional payments."
The pensioners are expecting to be paid. This is an obligation that needs to be kept. We should continue to look at retirement options going forward to lessen this burden, but these promises have already been made. We have to make the payments.
We have to put ourselves on an old-fashioned payment plan and catch up, just like any family would have to do. Every year thousands of line items are re-approved without review. Every item needs to pass the test of "is this more important than our pension liabilities?"
I'm sure we'd get plenty of consensus out of our pensioners on a lot of these items. There is enough money in our revenue to keep our promises. Pensions have been treated like a flex payment or even a slush fund, rather than a hard cost. We need to prioritize spending. I'd like to vote for a balanced budget. I haven't seen one here.
Q: Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should state government be taking to address the issue?
A: Humans are certainly among the factors that affect our climate. We already take steps with energy policy regulations, environmental policy, zoning, agricultural policy, not to mention so many incentive programs that are put in place to encourage climate-friendly behavior. As technology improves, we're seeing even more cost effective and efficient solutions that become easier to embrace for our society. A simple example is the growing number of plug-in stations for electric cars which offer close-in parking spaces. There are many others. Government's best role is to provide incentives and continue to do the research to make environmental policies easy to embrace and cost-effective. Every time they do that, it works.
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 draw a thick line between peacefully protesting and criminal behavior. What we're seeing every day is rampant crime sprees while our law-abiding citizens are victimized.
Nobody needs to injure or kill a person, or loot and destroy property, in order to get my attention. I don't know how much systemic racism plays in limiting opportunity in Illinois, but I am fully aware that it does, so that requires attention and a solution.
Police and law enforcement should be held to a professional standard -- we all should! I don't know a single soul who justifies the actions of rogue cops who abuse citizens in any way. If the question is moving toward "defunding" or "re-imagining" law enforcement, my answer is no.
If we're discussing adding elements of social work training to our system, I'm very supportive.
Government's first responsibility is to preserve the peace and maintain law and order; to protect persons and property from criminal elements. That's a nonnegotiable "must." People need to feel safe and actually be safe.
Anything less is a breach of responsibility. What we have been experiencing is abhorrent.