On Sept. 5, the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board met with the candidates for Illinois Senate in the 9th district. We asked Republican nominee Joan McCarthy Lasonde why she’s running, and you can watch the video above for her response.
We also sent all of the candidates running for the Illinois Senate a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state. Lasonde submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.
Lasonde: Thank you for asking this question. It is very important our elected leaders are thoughtful in their purpose and have a plan to fix our state. Here are my priorities:
- Balance the State BudgetGet government spending under control
- Work to fix the pension crisis
- Cut government waste & streamline duplicative services to re-prioritize spending to help those who truly need it:Advocate for the 18,000+ kids in IL DCFS Foster Care, including 3,000+ of whom are waiting for a forever family;
- Provide the services our seniors need and deserve;
- Help our Veterans – they fought for us, I will fight for them; and
- Provide support to our mentally ill.
- Reduce Our TaxesRoll back the Laura Fine/Mike Madigan 32% income tax hike, the largest permanent, personal income tax increase in state history; and
- Freeze property taxes.
- End the Corruption of Insider PoliticiansI will lead by example and sponsor legislation to:End pensions for part-time elected officials – I will not take a government pension;
- Put an end to lifetime taxpayer paid for healthcare for elected legislators (after 8 years in office);
- Stop automatic pay raises for part-time legislators — I will sponsor legislation to end this practice;
- Enact term limits – I will only serve 2 terms; and
- Propose a constitutional amendment, even if it needs a statewide referendum to enforce No Budget/No Pay (ruled unconstitutional by the courts) .
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.
- Provide funding for after-school programsWe have in our district a non-profit called Family Focus, located in Evanston. Their mission is to “promote the well-being of children from birth by supporting and strengthening families in and with their communities”. They serve the underprivileged and forgotten children in our area and I am honored to be a supporter of theirs. Their after-school program is funded through donations. In October, I am hosting a free seminar there to build awareness for Family Focus and the children they serve. We will have a panelist of experts to discuss the many ways we can help the children attending their programs and Illinois’ foster children. At the event, I will be presenting Family Focus with a check, in an amount to be determined, from monies raised at a fundraiser I am hosting for them in September. These monies will go to help keep kids off the streets by supporting Family Focus’ after school program, which is not funded by DCFS.
- Provide more affordable housingEvanston is home to one of the best universities, while at the same time it hides one of its best kept secrets, homelessness. Bottom line, this is a real problem in Evanston and this community needs more affordable housing, which is why I have become involved with a local affordable housing committee in town.Until that happens, there is a local place, also in Evanston, called Hilda’s Place. They provide assistance to the homeless, including a place to sleep and eat meals. Recently, I pulled a team together and we cooked and served breakfast for some of the homeless who were able to sleep indoors that night. Thankfully Hilda’s Place exists, but they need more support too. According to the newspaper Evanston Now, “A new analysis of Census Bureau data says Evanston ranks seventh of nearly 600 cities in the United States in the share of housing cost represented by property taxes.” Because of my opponent and her boss Mike Madigan and their voting record to increase property taxes, people are losing their homes because they can’t afford to pay their taxes. This is part of the problem causing people to be homeless.
- Freeze property taxesAll across our district, rising property taxes are threatening home ownership and are a top reason why people are considering moving out of Illinois. Yes, this is a state issue, but also a local issue, in that our towns are starting to suffer as a result of their residents moving out.
Who is Joan McCarthy Lasonde?
She is running for: Illinois State Senate, 9th District
Her political/civic background:
- Candidate in 9th Congressional District, 2016
- Member of the Board of the Illinois State Crime Commission
Her occupation: Former marketing executive
Her education: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, B.S.
Campaign website: JoanforIllinois.com
What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?
Lasonde: My opponent has already taken over $130,000.00 from the Mike Madigan machine campaign accounts and has been a party line vote for him in the legislature since she arrived six years ago. This includes voting to re-elect Madigan as Speaker every chance she got, voting for Madigan’s tax hikes, yearly unbalanced budgets and more. She supports the status quo in Springfield by the mere fact she has done nothing to change it. The six years she has been in Springfield, things have gotten worse for our state, not better. Her name is Fine, but her record is wrong.
I am an Independent leader and the only people I am going to work for are the taxpayers. I am not taking financial support from elected or party leaders, and do not owe them anything.
While my opponent is a part of the problem, I will lead by example, including:
- End pensions for part-time elected officials – I will not take a government pension
- Put an end to lifetime taxpayer paid for healthcare for elected legislators (after 8 years in office)
- Stop automatic pay raises for part-time legislators — I will sponsor legislation to end this practice
- Enact term limits – I will only serve 2 terms
- Propose a constitutional amendment, even if it needs a statewide referendum to enforce No Budget/No Pay (ruled unconstitutional by the courts)
I do understand these will not fix everything, but we have to start somewhere. While my opponent has been all too happy to accept these perks and go along with the status quo, I will lead by example, work to eliminate perks for part-time legislators, and fight to get our state government working for taxpayers again.
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?
Lasonde: We must get our financial house in order, which includes truly “balancing” the budget, reducing the tax burden on our families and improving our state’s credit rating. This will help both employers and workers to gain confidence in our state once again.
My opponent voted for the largest permanent tax hike in Illinois history — 32%. Doing so made Illinois much less competitive than our neighboring states, resulting in families moving out.
To promote job creation, Illinois must:
- Reduce government red-tape, bureaucracy, and tax burdens to make us more competitive with neighboring and other states;
- Freeze property taxes and hold the line on income taxes;
- Reduce spending by eliminating waste and fraud without cutting services;
- Pass a real balanced budget, no more imaginary ones like they passed in 2018 (and really since 2001); and
- Reduce the pension crisis by combining some of the 628 pension systems, reducing the number of administrators managing them, paying less in management costs.
These steps will help employers to both stay here or move back to Illinois, which then helps them create or bring more jobs to our families and workers.
In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?
Lasonde: The pension system is broken and we must fix it. While first guaranteeing the pensions to those who have already earned them, there are several things we must do, starting with our elected officials leading by example:
- Unlike my opponent, I’m NOT going to take a pension. During her 6 years in the state legislature, the pension problem has only gotten worse. We must end pensions for ALL part-time elected officials because reform starts at the top.
- The current pension system is getting worse, not better. We should look at moving all new workers to a defined contribution 401K.
- Reduce the overhead costs by consolidating the over 600 different pension systems. On this note, I would also like to share that in a previous election questionnaire on this subject, my opponent wrote “Additionally, we need to find a way to roll back pension perks instituted by political insiders for their own personal — and considerable — gain.” I agree. But in the 6 yrs she’s been in Springfield, she’s failed to do this. We must remove those elected leaders — including my opponent — from elected office who are partially responsible for the pension crisis being as bad as it is.
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?
Lasonde: Right now my eldest child is visiting/starting to apply to colleges. The “talk” is that Illinois schools are accepting out of state, and out of country students for the increased tuition rate. So it becomes a “fate-acomplii” in that less and less Illinois students are applying to Illinois schools when they already think or are convinced “they’ll never get in”.
We need to change the narrative. Ending golden parachutes (which just became law) is a very good place to start. It should help bring tuition more in line with schools in neighboring states, by reducing administrative costs and I am pleased this is now law. We also need to get administrative salaries reduced to bring tuition costs down. Both of these will help reduce the need for “out-of-state” higher tuition rate students.
What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?
Lasonde: Gun violence is a devastating issue which must be dealt with, both as it relates to killing other people or people killing themselves. We need to implement a thoughtful approach to do what we can to prevent any more needless deaths while not denying people their Second Amendment rights.
We must start by enforcing the laws already on the books. Next, we need common sense laws which guarantee the 2nd Amendment, while at the same time, limiting complete access. A couple good examples of this include making bump stocks illegal, and legislations recently signed into law, the so called “red flag” law and the 72 hour waiting period for all gun purchases.
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?
Lasonde: I understand both sides of this issue. Employers should provide ample notice to their employees of their work hours for several reasons, most important of which, it is the right thing to do.
However, I am against more regulations on businesses telling them how to run their private companies, especially since we are losing companies and jobs to our neighboring states.
Employers will find that it is in their best interest to self-enforce “fair scheduling”, as some employees will quit without it and find work where it is available.
Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
Lasonde: No. According to the Illinois Chief of Polices’ Association The Colorado Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area puts out a yearly report that tracks the impact of legalization in their state and found, among other things:
- Marijuana-related traffic deaths (when a driver was positive for marijuana) more than doubled (66 percent increase). During the same period, all traffic deaths increased 16 percent.
- In the first 5 areas that legalized recreational marijuana (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia) it is now the leading cause of drug treatment among youth (12-17)
It appears one reason my opponent and the legislature are considering this is to tax it and raise money for their overspending and to try and fix the financial problems they have created. However, it is in total disregard to what the Sheriff’s say and the health of our people.
I support medical marijuana to help those in need.
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?
Lasonde: The opioid crisis is very real and one that is personal to me and my family. Unfortunately our foster child’s birth Mom is an addict, and over the past 6 years we have come across many other foster children who have one or both parents suffering or dead of an opioid addiction.
I also am a volunteer at Lake Church in Evanston where I am tutoring a 48 yr old mom who was born in the projects, who also has been addicted to opiods. One of her kids was murdered and she is since trying to get her life back in order, working on her GED to get a fresh start.
I serve on the Board of the Illinois State Crime Commission and this, and human trafficking, are the two issues we are focused on right now.
Pain is a real issue for some people, and we need to find them another form of relief, such as medical marijuana which is now legal in Illinois for medicinal purposes.
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?
Lasonde: The landmark legislation prevented the Quad Cities and Clinton power plants from closing, saving approximately 1,500 jobs between them, while also creating more jobs. While not everyone is happy with the legislation 100%, it was a good compromise, and a good start.
Moving forward, as we increase our dependence on nuclear power, all environment risks, such as groundwater contamination, must be prevented as much as they can be. However some of our state’s control is limited due to the doctrine of federal preemption. Therefore, we need to ensure the safety of neighboring communities are protected and look at ways to ensure we have the power and ability to do so.
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?
Lasonde: Managed care truly helps those who need it and it should be ensured. That’s why your question is a good one. Right now our country has the highest health care costs in the world. So the ability to offer health insurance at reduced costs is necessary, as long as we work to maintain the costs, which in turns helps keep this a financially viable program.
To keep it solvent will require public/private cooperation to keep the good in the program and fix what might not be working as well.
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?
Lasonde: My parents were both CPS teachers and my father used to say, “Get an education, it’s the one thing people can’t take away from you”. I agree with his statement and part of the correctional system efforts should include education, job training, rehabilitation, as well as mentors.
Housing criminals for the sake of punishing them, does nothing to help rehabilitate them or help them get jobs upon their release to assimilate back into society.
A couple Sunday’s ago at 6:00am, I was making breakfast at Hilda’s Place, a homeless shelter, as their overnight homeless residents need to leave by 7:00 am. While there, I met a young man who had just gotten out of jail and had no place to go. A few days later, I was at grocery store right by the homeless shelter, and at their outdoor tables and chairs was a gentlemen who looked familiar. It was 9:00 in the morning and then it clicked that I has just met him at Homeless shelter. He worked down the street at noon but was going to sit there and wait for 3 hours until his shift started because he had nowhere to go.
While it is easy to say the legislature should increase funding for these programs, the reality is the state does not have the money to do so. This comes back to budgeting and the fact that my opponent and her boss Mike Madigan have not passed a balanced budget since she was elected to the legislature six years ago.
Serious consideration should be given to creating a public-private partnership which doesn’t cost tax dollars, while creating a work-force for local companies. A perfect example is Curt’s Cafe in Evanston where they hire at-risk or formerly incarcerated young adults, who otherwise have few resources available to them.
Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?
Lasonde: Yes, we should take a look at this on a case by case basis. We should not just blanket parole solely based on length of their sentences, but rather on a combination of time served, behavior and seriousness of their crime in conjunction with rehabilitation.
Our prisons are overcrowded and part of the problem is recidivism. Some of which occurs on purpose because we parole prisoners without any assistance, and when they find it too hard to assimilate, they return to what they know, prision. Under these circumstances we have failed the released prisoner who is not prepared for the outside world, nor qualified for employment.
While some people view parole as a way to provide relief from prison overcrowding, parole should be available only to those who have proven to be rehabilitated. It makes more sense to be proactive in our efforts to prevent overcrowding by creating job training and programs which assimilate prisoners back into society such as Curt’s Cafe (2922 Central) which is located in our district.