On Oct. 18, Karina Villa appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. Watch the video above to find out why she’s running for Illinois House of Representatives in the 49th District in the 2018 general election.
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent nominees for the Illinois House of Representatives a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois and their districts. Villa submitted the following responses:
Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.
First and foremost, we need to address the rising property taxes in Illinois. Residents in my district cannot afford to continue to pay money they don’t have, and should not be forced to carry the burden of decade’s worth of fiscal mismanagement in Illinois.
As a school social worker, I am also concerned about education and mental health issues. While the recently passed school funding reform will help, we still have a long way to go to ensure our schools are properly funded and that we are providing adequate resources to those suffering from mental health issues.
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.
Issues in my district are primarily focused around property taxes, education funding, and a balanced budget.
Property taxes are the number one concern I hear as I go door to door every day in my district. Most local families in my district cannot afford for their taxes to go up thousands of dollars every year- it’s unsustainable and it is causing a mass-exodus from Illinois. The state needs to increase funding for education so that local boards are not reliant on raising property taxes to have the bare minimum needed to operate schools and local services.
At the same time, local governments need to tighten their belts, make do with what they have, and not ask taxpayers to pay more. When the West Chicago Board of Education ended the year with a budget surplus, we returned $700,000 to local taxpayers through a tax abatement. All public officials need to be watchful stewards of tax payer dollars.
We should also look at expanding property tax exemptions for low-income residents and seniors on fixed incomes.
Ensuring our schools are properly funded is vital to ensuring a stable future for Illinois. The recent school funding reform that provided $350 million more in school funding was a start, we must make sure we are providing students with a world-class education that makes them competitive in a global economy. This will keep families in Illinois and ensure our kids have the resources they need to thrive.
Last, I hear consistently at doors the need for a comprehensive, balanced budget that will get Illinois back on track to financial solvency. Having gone 700 days without a budget, residents are fed up with the politics in Springfield, and just want their representatives to come together, enact meaningful reform and pass a responsible budget. They don’t want the instability that comes from operating without having a budget, or a budget which is unrealistic. They live within their means, and Springfield should too.
Who is Karina Villa?
She’s running for: State Representative, 49th District Her political/civic background: Has served on the West Chicago District 33 Board of Education since 2013. She is currently the Vice President. Her education: Masters Degree in Social Work from Aurora University Her website: KarinaVilla.com
What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?
Villa: My opponent is an extreme right-wing conservative who believes government should regulate women’s healthcare, but not businesses. She stands with Bruce Rauner continuing to cut taxes for the ultra-wealthy and while slashing funding for vital services that families depend on.
I am not a career politician, I’m a school social worker. My opponent has spent years and an incredible amount of money running for political office. First county board, then a failed run for congress, and now for the 49th District I am running because I could no longer remain on the sidelines seeing the issues my students and their families are facing every day.
I certainly am not a millionaire. I, like many in our district, struggle paycheck to paycheck. While I certainly applaud Mrs. Khouri’s business success, I think she is out-of-touch with the needs of middle-class families. Illinois cannot solve its problems with more millionaires in office. Mrs. Khouri doesn’t understand what it’s like to be unable to pay for vital medication or to not know where her next meal is coming from. We need leaders who understand the struggles of everyday families.
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?
Villa: As I walk door to door in my district, I come across many folks who are on the verge of moving out of Illinois. Property taxes, falling quality of schools, and rising costs are keeping people from seeing a future they can afford in Illinois. As a state we should be looking at, first fixing our out of control property tax system, but also providing relief by increasing exemptions for low-income homeowners and seniors on a fixed income. We should also look for ways to actively cut taxes for middle-class families, and ensure billionaires are paying their fair share so we can continue to grow our economy.
We should look at ways to partner with small business owners to streamline regulatory processes. We need a predictable, stable, financial environment. We should look for innovative ways to funnel expenditures to in-state businesses wherever feasible.
We should also be investing in our local universities so we can keep our best and brightest in Illinois.
In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?
Villa: It’s important to understand that our state’s pension crisis is a result of neglect by Governors and legislators on both sides of the aisle not making full pension payments as they were obligated, using our pension system as a credit card. To get Illinois back on the path to financial solvency, we must first make our pension payments in full, every time. To create meaningful, comprehensive, and realistic plan going forward, we must bring all parties together, and negotiate in good faith. This problem is bigger than any political party, or any ideology. As the Supreme Court has already made it clear we cannot diminish or reduce benefits, we must be thoughtful and explore all avenues to address this crisis.
There is no quick and easy solution to this crisis, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but we cannot kick the can down the road as was done in the past. I know if we buckle down and work together we can reach a solution to save the state of Illinois.
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?
Villa: As an educator, I am very concerned that we are losing the best and the brightest students in Illinois to other states. Not only are parents having their children move far from home, but the fiscal impact this has on Illinois is significant, and in the long-run will be devastating.
In his failed attempts to implement reform in Illinois, Bruce Rauner has cut higher education funding and funding for financial aid in Illinois. This only serves to perpetuate the problem, and prevents more students from being able to afford an education in Illinois. On top of that, why would any student want to attend college in a state that fails to pass a budget for over 700 days? Our kids are smart enough to see the instability in Illinois, and fear the impacts it will have on their education.
I was happy to see legislators come together to restore funding to our higher education institutions and MAP grant funding, but ultimately we must as a state find ways to reduce tuition so that all students have access to affordable higher education in Illinois.
What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence? *
Villa: As a social school worker, the recent surge in school shootings is devastating and terrifying for parents. I think the Illinois legislature should pass common-sense gun control reforms that respect the rights of law abiding gun owners. I would support banning the sale of military-style assault rifles, strengthening background checks, requiring state licensing of all gun dealers, and banning bump stocks, which can make semi-automatic weapons operate like automatic weapons. We cannot continue to do nothing.
As an educator, I am also completely opposed to arming teachers. Schools are not warzones, and increasing the presence of firearms in schools will have an adverse effect on the quality of education we can provide.
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?
Villa: As the daughter of small business owners, I am certainly sympathetic to the ebbs and flows of staffing needs in business, but I don’t believe it should undermine the stability of local families. I would support language like that in House Bill 5046, which strikes a balance requiring employers to schedule workers at least 3 days in advance. The employees whose shifts are then canceled or shortened within that time would be entitled to at least half of their expected wages for that shift.
I will make sure, however, that small businesses are not overburdened with this regulation.
Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
Villa: I would need to have further discussions with residents in my community and local law enforcement before fully committing, but I am open to all potential new revenue streams that don’t directly burden middle-class families.
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?
Villa: This issue hits close to home for me, both as a social worker and someone who has had someone close to me die from an overdose. We have made some progress in Illinois, increasing availability of Narcan and expanding access to treatment, but we still have a long way to go to solve this issue.
We need to increase funding for mental health services, and crack down on the powerful pharmaceutical companies that have escalated this crisis. We also need to do a better job of educating our community and law enforcement about ways we can actively reduce opioid abuse.
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?
I was endorsed by the Sierra Club because I am a strong supporter of green job creation and the building of green infrastructure throughout the state. If elected, I will promote good environmental policies as the federal government continues to dismantle our safeguards.
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?
Villa: I have seen many parents deal with the reality of having to choose between medications and putting food on the table. Our health care system is fundamentally broken.
Medicare rates need to be balanced so that they are affordable, but are still enough to entice health care providers. The recent unilateral changes to the Medicaid system pushed through by Bruce Rauner have had a disastrous effect that only further served to pad the profits of insurance companies instead of helping patients.
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?
Villa: The first priority as State Representative is to pass a responsible, balanced, budget that funds vital services. Poor prison conditions only increase recidivism rates, which are incredibly costly for the state. Investing in rehabilitation will provide long-term payoffs for the state and should be prioritized.
Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?
Villa: I acknowledge that significant changes are needed to address our prison population, and I would be open to discussing these changes with local law enforcement to discuss their views. I am primarily focused on providing tax relief for local families and passing a responsible and balanced budget.
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.