Sam Yingling: 2022 candidate for Illinois Senate 31st District
Office sought: Illinois Senate 31st District
Occupation: Legislator and Real Estate Broker
Previous offices held: I currently serve as an IL State Representative
Q: How well did the Illinois government respond to the COVID-19 crisis? What do you think should be done differently?
The Covid-19 pandemic was an unprecedented event that required an unprecedented response. The failure of the Federal Government to mobilize a national plan left each state to manage the crisis on its own. Despite this major setback, Illinois moved quickly to implement a strategy to reduce viral spread, boost healthcare services, and save lives. I believe Governor Pritzker displayed solid and steady leadership, navigating the State through daily uncertainties as the pandemic unfolded and evolved. The General
Assembly addressed the crisis with great agility, supported the Governor, and provided the tools and funding necessary to the people of Illinois. Governing during a national emergency presents challenges that must be addressed in real-time. I am proud that Illinois leadership, from the chief executive to front line service workers, was steady and consistent.
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?
It is impossible to discuss ethics without first discussing Michael Madigan and the litany of elected officials who abuse public office for their personal gain. Self-dealing, pay-to-play, and trading political clout for money has a long and painful history in Illinois. Although some progress has been made, lawmakers need to go further. The ethics reform package I supported and voted for this year is a good first start.
However, there is additional work that needs to be done to address legislative ethics including better transparency and requiring elected officials to disclose conflicts of interest, particularly for political consulting and business interests that may influence their votes.
Q: What should the state do to address the still-growing problems with its key pension programs?
The state has taken significant steps in addressing its pension programs that were intentionally
underfunded starting in the 1990s. The implementation of pension buyouts has proven to be effective, and I would support the authorization of additional buyouts to secure long-term savings. This budget year we allocated an additional $500M in pension stabilization funds which will save the state a projected $1B in long-term financial exposure. We must continue to invest in these stabilization initiatives to achieve long lasting fiscal strength.
Q: Describe at least two circumstances in which you have shown or would show a willingness to act independently of the direction or demands of party leadership.
I learned firsthand that expressing dissention and independence within a political party structure is often met with challenges and strife. At the beginning of this legislative session, eighteen of my colleagues and I joined together to prevent former Speaker Michael Madigan from being reelected Speaker of the House.
The nineteen of us faced significant pressure from other party leaders, colleagues, and external interests to break from our conviction that a new Speaker must be elected. It was the ultimate test of fortitude that I have faced during my service in the Illinois House.
Witnessing extreme corruption, pay-to-play, and abuse of power, I am steadfast in calling-out wrongdoing. Prior to taking the stand against Madigan, I was the first House member to call for the resignation of his chief-of-staff who also served as the Clerk of the House, and Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Illinois, after serious sexual harassment allegations emerged against him.
Q: What should lawmakers be doing to stem out-migration from Illinois?
The biggest challenge is keeping our young adults in the State. Unfortunately, decades of cuts to higher education have forced young adults -- especially those with limited financial means -- to go elsewhere for college. This was exacerbated during the Rauner budget impasse. Our state universities, once a lifeline for upward financial mobility, ceased to offer the opportunity they once had.
However, through tough decisions and fiscal discipline, Illinois now has the strongest fiscal outlook in nearly twenty years. We need to use this strong financial footing to reinvest into higher education, our community colleges, and technical and trade schools to keep our young adults in the State.
Soaring property taxes are another major factor driving people out of the State. We must reform Illinois' antiquated tax code and stop our over-reliance on property taxes to fund education and other governmental services.
Q: Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should government be taking to address the issue?
Climate change is real, and it is the direct result of human activity. On average, every year we burn fossil fuels that took the earth 1 million years to produce. We need to stem the effects of climate change which include the phase-out of fossil fuels and investment into long-term mitigation strategies. The government has a critical responsibility in initiating policies to achieve these objectives. Illinois is taking the lead in reducing its carbon output and incentivizing investment into renewable technology.
I was proud to be a sponsor of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) which is transformative legislation moving Illinois to a carbon-free future as well as creating a model for other states across the nation. I was proud to have also supported the Reimaging Electric Vehicle Act (REV), which lays the groundwork for Illinois to become a top manufacturer of electric vehicles and components.
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 you offer voters?
Illinois' antiquated and regressive tax code is what motivated me to run for public office. My grandmother, a lifelong resident of the district I now represent, struggled to pay property taxes on her small two bedroom home. Ultimately, in her eighties and a widow, she was forced back to work.
Our over-reliance on property taxes to fund education is the single largest factor creating an unfair and unsustainable tax base for Illinois families. Addressing this inequity must be a top priority.
We need to diversify our tax code to one built upon a person's ability to pay, which includes adopting a progressive income tax, as well as a tax code that reflects the realities of the State's service-based economy. By properly taxing those in a position to pay, the State can restructure revenue to invest into the evidence-based school funding formula. As a result, the reliance on property taxes to fund education will be diminished,
providing significant downward pressure on property taxes.