Republican Karen Feldman faces Democrat Daniel Didech in the 59th district Illinois House race.
On Sept. 28, Feldman appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. Watch the video above to find out why she’s running.
The Chicago Sun-Times also sent the candidates seeking the 59th District Illinois House seat a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing their district and the state of Illinois. Feldman submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.
Feldman: There is no one issue that can be addressed in a vacuum. All of Illinois’ problems are intertwined. Any improvement in any area will be positive across the board.
a. Property tax reform: Property taxes are unaffordable and unfair and one of the biggest, if not biggest, factor as to why people choose to leave Illinois.
b. Defending residents from a progressive income tax: The income tax rate was just increased in 2017 and less than a year later, there is talk of increasing it further. The only proposal seen thus far is the “The Friendly Act” which starts at the current rate of 4.95% and raises taxes even higher for working families. We are already one of the highest taxed states in the nation, enough is enough.
c. Redistricting reform and term limits: We should have fair and independent voting districts that reflect the vote of the people fairly and that are not be stacked in any one party’s favor for politicians to pick their voters. Likewise, term limits is a real concern as we have seen with the career politicians in Springfield who have amassed incomprehensible power. Fair maps and term limits have mutually desired outcomes.
d. Economic growth: Support legislation that eases the burden of over regulation and red tape for businesses and that will actually attract businesses, which will in turn bring jobs to the area. When corporations look to open a new location, they take other factors into analysis such as cost of living for their employees, local schools, transportation, recreation, and other quality of life issues so, I would work toward improving all of those areas of life for the residents of the 59th and the State as well.
e. Pension Reform: Simply, the State has overpromised and underfunded to the point that pension payments are 25% of budget already.
Please list three concerns that are highly specific to your district, such as a project that should be undertaken or a state policy related to some local issue that must be changed.
a. Property taxes: This is both a district and statewide concern. I believe we can lower property taxes for residents by consolidating services and streamlining taxing bodies, as well as, bringing in new revenue by attracting more businesses. The broader tax base and new revenue generated by more jobs can help fund education and prevent the schools having to reach out to property owners to fill those huge gaps in funding.
b. Flooding in the Des Plaines River Watershed: I will work with State and local officials and the IEPA to help fund improvements and upgrades to storm water infrastructure.
c. Traffic and transportation: The 59th District and surrounding Lake County suffers from congestion and gridlock, any improvements to roads and bridges that would help reduce such problems would be a priority fix.
Who is Karen Feldman?
She is running for: State Representative 59th District
Her political/civic background: Village Trustee of Lincolnshire 2001-2018
Her occupation: Residential Realtor
Her education: BA in Psychology DePaul University
Campaign website: KarenForIL.com
What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?
a. I won’t vote for Mike Madigan for House Speaker. We are all tired of the tyranny.
b. I won’t take a taxpayer-funded pension. I am motivated to create real change in Springfield and I won’t make being State Representative a career.
c. I don’t have ties to Mike Madigan, haven’t been on John Cullerton’s or Terry Link’s staff, nor have I worked in Lisa Madigan’s office.
d. As a member of a non-partisan Village board, I have a proven record of working collaboratively with others for the best interest of the community and will take that experience with me to Springfield.
e. As a longtime resident, working mom with children in the public school system, public servant, and dealing with a chronic illness, I have personally faced a lot of the same issues as the constituents here and can relate to the challenges they face.
Illinois is now the sixth-most populated state, down from No. 5, after 33,703 people moved out between July 2016 and July 2017. What must the Legislature do to make Illinois a more desirable place to live?
Feldman: I believe the exodus rate has significantly increased from there. As a residential realtor, I deal with this daily. More and more people are finding that their best-fit communities are out of state. There are things we can do and things we should make sure we don’t do.
What we can do is reduce the property tax burden. It is like a second mortgage to homeowners and we cannot tax ourselves into prosperity. I think that is a fundamental difference between myself and the current environment in Springfield.
We can implement changes to attract businesses and jobs for economic success and recreate Illinois as a business destination.
We can ensure quality education to all and implement vocational training, especially for the new innovation jobs coming in the future.
We can maintain and ensure healthy and successful recreation options for residents and create a good quality of life.
We should elect reform-minded individuals who have the best interest of all the citizens at heart and not themselves or Mike Madigan. Public servants who are fiscally responsible, fair, creative, and innovative. We need to gain the public’s trust and confidence in Springfield.
There are things we should not do. We should not expand the motor fuel tax. For along time, people have worked hard to bring vehicles to be more economical and environmentally friendly and now that the State doesn’t derive as many tax dollars from less refueling, we shouldn’t tax progress.
We shouldn’t impose a progressive income tax, as the Madigan tax hike just went into effect last year and residents of Illinois are already one of the most taxed in the nation.
In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?
Feldman: The Supreme Court has ruled that any changes to the pension plan must be voluntary or else they will be overruled. Illinois should move all new hires to a defined contribution plan, one that models after private sector retirement plans, such as a 401K plan, which can effectively balance portfolio risk between taxpayer and state worker, while offering portability. Additionally, the state could encourage a lump sum buyout or move them into a new tier of the pension plan, as previously proposed with bipartisan support.
From 2000 to 2016, the number of Illinois residents who enrolled as college freshmen outside the state increased by 73% (20,507 to 35,445). Why are so many more Illinois residents going to college elsewhere? What should be done to encourage more of them to go to school here?
Feldman: In-state tuition is not only unaffordable but in a lot of instances, it’s more expensive than out of state tuition as compared to our neighboring states. Making college more affordable is helpful but there is still little confidence in this state. We need to turn this state and bring back consumer confidence and optimism that there is a future here.
This is a deeply personal issue to me as I have a daughter who attends a university outside of Illinois and son who is currently looking at schools in other states as well. I’d love for my daughter to be in Illinois and close to home and not a 16-hour car trip or $300 plane ticket away. She chose to go out of state because she thinks the jobs of the future exist elsewhere.
Since the Blagojevich administration there has been a lack of focus on higher education and no long-term approach to make Illinois colleges desirable destinations for students. It has led to a steady decline of state support, which has increased cost and created deteriorating campuses across the state.
In the General Assembly I would support merit-based scholarships for Illinois students and also work to make community colleges a more affordable choice that can allow for automatic enrollment in a state four-year university. I also support the consolidation of the Board of Higher Education, the Community College Board and the Student Assistance Commission in an effort to streamline and centralize the higher education bureaucracy in Illinois.
What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?
Feldman: The state has recently passed a slate of legislation and made some good strides toward reducing gun violence. We need to be mindful of public safety and not to infringe on people’s rights when legislating effective and enforceable laws.
On-demand scheduling software now helps large retail companies determine how many staff members they will need on a day-to-day or even hour-to-hour basis. The downside is that employees may not receive their work schedules until the last minute. Oregon and a number of cities have responded by adopting “fair scheduling” laws. Would it be appropriate for the Illinois Legislature to pass a “fair scheduling” law? Please explain. What would such a law look like?
Feldman: No. Illinois has too much red tape and regulation interference currently. Employers should have their own internal scheduling policy in place already. It’s my belief that if companies don’t treat their employees well, the company won’t have a workforce for long and won’t succeed. Government shouldn’t run businesses for them.
Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
Feldman: Several states have already legalized it and several more are having serious discussions and proposals for legalizing it. It looks as if that momentum could be coming to Illinois sooner, rather than later. I would like all the due diligence to be done first. I would like to see consultation with law enforcement, medical professionals, and an in-depth analysis of future social, health, and public impacts as a result of legalization. I do think there may be a possibility of expanding the medical program to treat more conditions in the interim.
Opioid overdoses and fatalities continue to rise in number. In Illinois in 2017, there were 13,395 opioid overdoses, including 2,110 deaths. What should the Legislature do, if anything, about this?
Feldman: The Opioid epidemic is devastating the State. We have made some good strides by the creation of a task force and the development of The State of Illinois Opioid Action plan, however, this is such a huge statewide problem that we need to aggressively monitor the situation and make any appropriate changes swiftly.
The Future Energy Jobs Act, passed in 2016, is generating job growth in renewable energy and improving energy efficiency. Do you agree or disagree with the objectives and substance of the Act? What more — or less — should be done?
Feldman: I support bipartisan bills like the Future Energy Jobs Act that kept our current power generation facilities viable and will work to make Illinois a leader in new power generation. All the while, creating thousands of jobs across the state.
What would you do to ensure the long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid program? What is your view on managed care for Medicaid beneficiaries?
Feldman: Illinois needs to make Medicaid transparent, efficient and accessible. Insurers need to be compensated adequately for treatment but also be held accountable for care outcomes. Managed care has the ability to transform the way healthcare is delivered to our residents, but it must be done in a smart way as we continue to transition more people into the managed care program. We cannot afford to rush implementation as ensuring people’s continued access to healthcare is too important.
Underfunding at the Department of Corrections has led to troubling findings by the auditor general that many inmates don’t receive services or opportunities for work while incarcerated. Is this a legitimate concern? What should the Legislature do?
Feldman: As a legislator, problems in the Department of Corrections would concern me greatly as they then could become problems in our neighborhoods. The state needs to focus on rehabilitation of those incarcerated in order to prevent recidivism and also help work to lower crime rates. More return to work facilities need to be added to those already in Kewanne and Murphysboro to serve a larger population and also we need to increase the opportunities for meaningful job skills education in all facilities.
Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?
Feldman: I am willing to listen on this issue but to support any change it would need to be done in a meaningful and thoughtful way. Illinois is an outlier, one of only sixteen states that offer no parole option and that lack of parole has created crowded facilities in the Department of Corrections. If the General Assembly were to reinstate parole I would not support a bill that allowed for parole for the most heinous of offenses and would like to ensure that politics are completely removed from the decision as to who gets paroled.
Ahead of the historic 2018 elections, the Sun-Times is teaming up weekly with the Better Government Association, in print and online, to fact-check the truthfulness of the candidates. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.