Ken Mejia-Beal: Candidate profile, Illinois State House -- 42nd District
In the race for Illinois House from District 42, Democrat Ken Mejia-Beal of Lisle is challenging one-term incumbent Amy Grant, a Republican from Wheaton, in the Nov. 3 general election.
Mejia-Beal is a financial manager, activist and community organizer.
To explore his campaign website, visit kmbfor42.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 Mejia-Beal's responses.
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: As a first-time candidate who has never served in Springfield, I cannot control the actions of any other individuals, including the Speaker of the House.
I'm focused on earning the trust and support of local residents so I can represent their values in Springfield.
If I have the honor to serve as our next state representative, I'll bring that same approach to represent our district by supporting a Speaker who shares my priorities to protect access to affordable health care, create more good-paying jobs, keep our neighborhoods safe, and strengthen our local economy.
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: As a professional in the finance industry, overregulation is something that I find both disturbing and unnecessary. I tend to not align with the Democratic Party on this issue.
I believe overregulation by the government is detrimental to families and especially small businesses. I am also against vice taxes in the state of Illinois. The amount of taxes added to products is through the roof.
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: Governor Pritzker listened to the medical professionals and did not bend to political pressure, which I applaud. I believe in the case of the immediate crisis our legislators should have influence over establishing policy.
If I were governor, I would have consulted more with the mayors in Illinois about resolutions, based on their expertise.
In 2020, COVID-19 became the entire equation, instead of being part of an equation, that is where I believe the situation should have been handled differently. I would have allowed small businesses to operate in a capacity that did not include a total shutdown. We saw a spike in domestic violence and lapses into opioid addiction and I directly tie this to some of the overreach made when planning and implementing policies because of COVID.
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 fiscal impact of COVID is evident and families and businesses are struggling. As a state we need to start looking at new innovative ways to reduce wasteful and duplicative state spending while protecting funding for our most vital services. I do not support raising taxes to pay for COVID-19. We are already taxed enough. I strongly support creating new revenue and in the creation of this new revenue we need to ensure that it will be long lasting and sustainable.
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: As I talk to voters in our community, many share their concerns that our current tax system is not working. Middle-class families need a fairer system and making millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share would even the playing field.
Illinois voters will have the final say in November and I support that approach. No matter the outcome, there is more work to be done to address our broken property tax system and provide more relief to middle-class families. If the fair tax passes, we will need fiscal responsible oversight to make sure the funds are not squandered. What I can assure voters is I will be a consistent 'no' vote on any item that involves spending money where no clear cut payment plan is provided.
Q: Do you support any type of tax on retirement benefits?
A: Absolutely Not.
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: In Illinois, holding state office requires a high level of ethical vigilance; as a governing body we must take these measures seriously. I strongly believe we should prohibit lawmakers from being paid to lobby other levels of government.
The responsibilities of state representatives already require advocacy and communication with other levels of government on behalf of the constituents. We should not allow this to be muddied by lobbying for paid interests. I support the two-year cooling off period proposed in House Bill 4097.
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: We need tougher penalties for lawmakers caught breaking the law. I am a proud Illinois resident and it saddens me that the general public has become so skeptical of elected leadership.
I support the recently proposed House Bill 4558 which strengthens the office of the Legislative Inspector General, including allowing the office to initiate its own investigations. I also support House Bill 4097 which will close the revolving door in Springfield. It is time to make changes that earn back the trust of our district and our state.
Q: What should the state do to address the still-growing problems with its key pension programs?
A: My plan with the pension is as follows -- As a state, both Democratic and Republican leadership have "borrowed" from the pension without putting those funds back; this is not OK. To rectify this, we need to increase our upfront payments now and refinance our way out of a growing deficit
Q: Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should state government be taking to address the issue?
A: Human activity is a part of climate change. There are several things that government can do to help climate change. Enact legislative policies to cap emissions, legislate to make Illinois 100% renewable energy by 2050, create tax incentives for small businesses with a 50% or more vegetarian menu, and incentivizing large companies that allow working from home.
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: Systemic racism plays a crucial role in limiting opportunity in Illinois. This issue is not a partisan issue and cannot be solved as one.
The fix for this issue is being able to have open conversations with our neighbors of different races. It starts by understanding that while we are all equal, our backgrounds can make us different, and that is OK.
That is the beautiful thing of living in a country as diverse as America.
In terms of policing, I think investing in crisis intervention teams should always be an option. I can say in DuPage County with Sheriff James Mendrick, we are doing incredibly well with our policing.