Michelle Mussman: 2022 candidate for 56th state House
Office sought: 56th state House District
Occupation: State Representative D56, Full Time
Previous offices held: State Representative D56
Q: What needs to be done structurally to make the legislature more effective? What is your position on term limits in general and for legislative leaders specifically?
A: In my time in office, I supported expanding the statement of economic interest that all officials must file to better highlight potential conflicts of interest, and expanded lobbyist disclosures to make more transparent to the public anyone who is being paid to influence elected officials. I voted to put term limits on legislative leaders. I also voted to install a former federal judge as the state's Legislative Inspector General, a person well regarded on both sides of the aisle, who will be tough and impartial.
I am open to the conversation about term limits, but have seen elected officials mis-use their office in their first years of service, and am concerned term-limits create a false sense of protection against unethical behavior. There is also evidence that term limits can arbitrarily remove people from office as they are gaining more independence and leadership skills, leaving the real influence in the hands of non-elected, non term limited staff members and lobbyists.
Q: Federal assistance has enabled the state to make important advances toward improving its budget. What will you do to ensure these advances continue when the federal aid is gone?
A: The state did not know COVID, or financial aid, was going to be a possibility and had already been laying the groundwork for recovery with prudent budgeting, such as prioritizing paying Medicaid bills first, then using the federal Medicaid matching dollars to pay off the highest interest rate bills. Rating agencies stated they were not reacting only to the use of federal COVID relief funds, but also to the smart ways they had seen Illinois manage our other dollars. I think the next year's financial future is still uncertain, based on global inflation, the lingering impacts of the pandemic, and the war in Ukraine. The way forward relies on prudent budgeting, making strategic investments, but being careful not to over commit ourselves to spending increases we may not be able to uphold in the future.
Q: To what extent are you happy or unhappy with the evidence-based model for education funding now in place in Illinois? How would you define "adequate" state funding for Illinois schools and what will you do to promote that?
A: The Evidence Based Formula was a historic step forward in re-balancing our funding to be more adequate and more equitable, regardless of the limitations or benefits of a district's taxing area. It recognizes each school has uniquely different needs and different needs year to year. COVID has severely impacted student academic progress and increased the needs of all schools for more student resources, especially social workers and mental health professionals, putting the real funding target higher than the originally planned. The state paying the preponderance of the cost of education is a critical part of "adequate," and means every school has the resources needed to address the basic needs of their unique students that year, no matter their zip code, without having to put unreasonable pressure on the property taxes of their residents. I support the state following the current funding plan and increasing that investment as revenue prudently allows, to alleviate property tax pressure.
Q: Do you believe elections in Illinois are free and fair? What changes, if any, are needed regarding election security and voter access?
A: I was proud to support expanding vote by mail options, which benefit the elderly, disabled, college students, and "snowbirds" living away from home. Expanding early voting opens up opportunities for those without flexible work schedules, or those who rely on others for rides. Making election day a state holiday is safer for school polling places and encourages students to become civically engaged by working at election sites.
The public should be vocal with their elected officials about what parts of the voting process they are concerned about or pleased with, so we can continue to address these needs and make the process work even better. Elected officials and candidates should be working to honestly engage with people to build trust and respect for the difficult work elected officials are trying to do. Divisiveness and open disrespect for people of differing opinions or party affiliations discourages people from wanting to participate in our elections.
Q: How well has Illinois responded to Supreme Court indications that it considers abortion, gay marriage and other social issues to be state, not federal, responsibilities? What if anything needs to be done in these areas and what would you do to make your vision come to pass?
A: Illinois was right to be proactive in passing legislation to protect reproductive healthcare, same-sex marriage, other LGBTQ rights, and gun safety measures. I will fight to protect women's autonomy and safety, increase smart gun safety measures, like proper storage and increased age restrictions, and resist hate and intolerance for others.
State policy on reproductive health and gun safety is literally a life and death matter and I cannot state that clearly enough. People cannot assume that just because these rights have already passed here, that they would never be undone or that their vote doesn't matter. It is vital that voters take action to vote for candidates that have stated on record they will fight to protect these rights. If people do not want to come to another tragedy and wonder if they did all they could do to prevent it, they need to vote, vote for candidates that support their view, and then follow up with those officials about exactly what they want them to do.