Our state’s economy must be grown from the bottom up, built on a foundation comprised of a strong educational system and dependable infrastructure. Prioritizing investment in these areas will attract business to our state and make our communities more livable for their employees.
We must end the culture of corporate tax breaks and giveaways. A system in which government services and largesse are targeted to benefit the wealthy and corporate interests is unfair to small businesses and entrepreneurs. We must ensure that the economic landscape is one that is fair to all who want to compete and that government doesn’t tip the scales to favor those with more wealth and power. Government should support businesses not by spending to artificially grow profits, but by investing to grow PEOPLE through education and worker training.
I support a living wage for all who labor to support themselves or their families. When employers are allowed to depress wages, their employees must rely on taxpayer- funded subsidies like Medicaid and food stamps. It is wrong for taxpayers to be expected to subsidize companies who fail to pay their employees a living wage.
As a school board member and a union member, I’ve sat on both sides of labor negotiations. It is the duty of elected officials to represent taxpayers vigorously just as it is the right of unions to do the same on behalf of workers. It is through this process that fair contracts are reached when citizens and workers hold their officials accountable. Depressing wages or restricting the rights of workers to organize and bargain is un-democratic and results in a worse quality of life for all. I am proud to have received the endorsement of the Illinois AFL-CIO State Federation. The AFL-CIO helps improve the lives of working men and women by promoting the rights of workers to join a union and by making sure their voices are heard at the state capitol.
Illinois is a wealthy state. There are many in our state, like our own Governor who have accumulated massive wealth in our current system. It is these people and the interests they represent who would like to protect this unfair system of taxation. I will work to fix it. We are one of only a handful of states still using a flat income tax and it is not suited to a modern economy. We must change our state constitution to allow for a graduated income tax that requires the ultra-wealthy to pay their fair share. Local services and education are largely financed through regressive sales taxes, like the new soda tax in Cook County, and a broken property tax system. Both are an unfair burden on working families and our seniors because the wealthiest property owners exploit the corrupt system to their advantage.
Quality public education, that’s accessible to everyone, is crucial to supporting a vibrant state economy. Early childhood programs are most effective when they include high program standards, small class sizes, and well-educated teachers with adequate pay.
Many of the inequities that hamper our K-12 school districts can be addressed by adequately funding the new formula adopted in SB1947. More funding from the state would relieve the growing tax burden that has been placed on homeowners. Further funding inequities should be addressed by broadening the geographical areas in which commercial and industrial property tax revenues are distributed to schools. It’s unfair that massive amounts of this type of property tax revenue is sequestered in small school districts when such commercial developments are sustained by public support from a much larger geographical area.
The 2-year budget impasse had a crippling affect on our state college and university system that had already been underfunded. Large numbers of our brightest, most talented young people chose to leave Illinois to pursue their education and career opportunities elsewhere. Once they leave our state, it’s unlikely that they will return. We must reinvest in higher education, fully fund MAP grants, and create new programs that provide incentives for students to stay in Illinois to attend college and work.
Assuring that all our citizens have ongoing access to quality health care is important to the well-being of our state. We must be focused both on eliminating disparities and identifying services that are unique to certain segments of our population. There are over 2.5 million women in Illinois who are of child bearing age and more than 150,000 children are born every year. Among other services, women in our state should have access to screening for breast and cervical cancers, pre/post-natal care, family planning, and teen pregnancy prevention. Women generally live longer than men and require screening and care for other conditions such as heart disease, osteoporosis and depression, which affect them differently than men.
Less than half of the adults in Illinois who are living with serious mental health conditions receive treatment for their conditions. 80,000 were discharged from treatment facilities during the 2-yr budget impasse because the state did not pay its bills. While public service providers were seriously damaged during this time, many of these services had already been seeing their resources cut by the state over the last decade. Investing in mental health services is good for our state because the benefits of treating conditions like depression and anxiety far exceed the costs. In a 2016 study, the World Health Organization found that for every dollar spent to treat such conditions, the return on investment could be fourfold or higher in terms of worker productivity and improved health. For more serious conditions, adequate treatment can protect patients from harming themselves or others, or ending up in our criminal justice or prison systems.
Prescription drug (opioids) and heroine abuse in Illinois are at crisis levels. I personally know young people in my community who have lost their lives to this powerful addiction. Long wait times often prevent addicts from receiving the treatment they seek. This is an urgent crisis and our state’s health system is not adequately equipped to deal with the scale of the problem. The human toll of failing to deal with this scourge is far greater than the cost of funding effective, timely treatment.
Illinois should explore a statewide public health insurance option to private insurance. It could be a Medicare-for-all plan or allow people to buy into Medicaid. There is a range of possibilities that other states are considering and Illinois should join the movement toward an efficient, low-cost public health insurance plan that would finally cover all of its citizens.