On Feb. 6, Caroline McAteer-Fournier appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked her why she’s running for the Democratic nomination in the Illinois State Senate 8th district in the March 2018 primary:
My name is Caroline McAteer and my family and I live in Sauganash Park. We’ve lived in the 8th district for over five years, where my daughter Nora, my husband Brandon and I have deep roots in the community. When I heard about the sexual harassment allegations against our current incumbent, Ira Silverstein, I was angry. As the mom of a daughter that is not the type of person I want representing our family and our district. I decided it was time to take action. I had a few friends call me over a two to three day period saying Caroline, you need to do this now. And so, on November 8th, I announce my candidacy. That was two days after back surgery and in less than four weeks we collected over 2800 signatures. So this is something that obviously we’re passionate about, and I’m excited to go to Springfield and be a champion for the people in our district. The areas I have experience in include issues that really matter to middle class families, to women, to children. I’ve been fighting for women’s reproductive rights for over four years, where I was on the board of Personal Pac. I’m the former president of the Danny Did foundation, which was started by a family in our district in Edgebrook when their little son Danny died of a seizure. Epilepsy awareness, healthcare, reproductive rights, public education, those are all issues I’ve been fighting for and that I will continue to be a champion for in Springfield.
The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates seeking nominations for Illinois State Senate a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois. Caroline McAteer-Fournier submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
QUESTION:Please explain what your specific cause or causes will be. Please avoid a generic topic or issue in your answer.
ANSWER:One of my top areas of focus will be increasing access to health care. Our government has the responsibility to provide insurance coverage for prescriptions, ensure those who have pre-existing conditions have access to affordable health care and insurance, and support expanded health care options that would better protect families. There is a lot that can be done in Springfield to improve and increase access to health care, and protect families against the chaos in Washington on this issue.
Running for:Illinois State Senate 8th district
Political/civic background: I have sat or currently sit on the following boards of directors: Personal PAC, Mercy Home for Boys and Girls Leader Council, Local School Council of Sauganash Elementary, Danny Did Foundation (former President of the Board: 2014-2017), current board member; Illinois Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan (ICHIP). I have volunteered on several campaigns helping candidates collect petition signatures, knock on doors and phone bank. I am an alumna of the Illinois Women’s Institute of Leadership (IWIL), an eight-month intensive program that selects 12 Democratic women per year from throughout Illinois and provides training on how to run for elected office and be effective government leaders.
Occupation: Associate Director of Employer Engagement and Partnerships at DePaul University’s Career Center
Education: Masters Degree, Public Service Administration: DePaul University, 2007
Bachelors of Arts: Communications: University of Dayton, 1997
Campaign website: CarolineForIllinois.com
QUESTION: Please list three district-specific needs that will be your priorities. This could be a project that is needed in your district, or a rule that needs to be changed, or some federal matter that has been ignored.
ANSWER: Medicare for All.
Fix the broken property tax system.
The 8th Senate district has a lot of small business districts and the state can do more to help facilitate small business development. As a member of the Lakeview Chamber, you know how important those policies can be for communities.
QUESTION: In 2017, Illinois’ unfunded pension liability ballooned to at least $130 billion. Do you support re-amortizing this debt? Please explain your answer. And what is your position on a constitutional amendment that would reduce the liability of the pension debt?
ANSWER:We need to fully fund the pension systems and uphold our end of deal to support workers after retirement. It is important to have pensions for state employees, and we must have the ability to pay for it. I support a graduated income tax, the “LaSalle Street” tax, and retirement income tax to generate much-needed revenue in our state without making additional cuts. We should not re-amortize the current debt, but we need to have a dedicated source of revenue for pension payments that cannot be touched by future General Assemblies.
TOPIC: Minimum wage
QUESTION: Cook County and Chicago are on their way to paying a $13 hourly minimum wage. Many suburbs in the county, however, have opted out of the wage increase. Should Illinois raise its minimum wage from $8.25 an hour? Please explain. And if you favor an increase in the state minimum wage, what should it be?
ANSWER: Illinois should raise the minimum wage. It should be increased to a $15 hourly minimum wage, and it should include a cost of living increase so that full-time workers can earn a living wage. No one who works full-time should struggle to survive.
QUESTION:Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
ANSWER:Yes. Legalizing recreational marijuana would save millions of dollars in law enforcement costs pursuing low-level criminal activity, and in the costs of incarcerating such low-level offenders. Moving marijuana from the black market to a highly regulated market would also improve public safety, both in eliminating one product of the often-violent illegal drug trade, and in ensuring that purchasers are buying a safe, untainted product. In addition, the state can clearly use the revenue that will be generated from taxes on recreational marijuana.
QUESTION:Would you support more casinos in Illinois, including in Chicago. What about racinos? Please explain.
ANSWER: Illinois does not need more casinos. Research has proven that the closer casinos are to people, the more likely they are to go and gamble. And, unfortunately, casinos target low-income and elderly people, who may be operating on a fixed income, to spend money on gambling. Our vulnerable populations in Illinois need to have the government’s support to survive and thrive, and casinos do just the opposite. There are very few instances in which I would support a new casino, and those would depend on the history and context of the project, and whether revenue would be specifically earmarked for community investment, such as public education.
TOPIC: Property tax freeze
QUESTION: A property tax freeze in Illinois has been proposed frequently since Gov. Bruce Rauner took office. What’s your position? If you favor a freeze, how many years should it last? Should the freeze exclude property tax increases to service the debt, make pension payments or cover the cost of public safety? Again, please explain.
ANSWER: I am against a property tax freeze in Illinois. The vast majority of funding for our public schools comes from property taxes collected by municipalities. Smaller communities wouldn’t be able to cover their budgets including pensions if we were to freeze property taxes.
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QUESTION: A revised school funding formula was approved this year by the Legislature and the governor, but a bipartisan commission has concluded that billions more dollars are needed to achieve sufficient and equitable funding. Should Illinois spend more on schools, and where would the money come from?
ANSWER:Yes. The new education funding formula provided much needed pension relief, and will bring more resources to school districts with the greatest need. However, more state revenue is needed. Such revenue can be realized through a graduated income tax and the closing of corporate loopholes like the carried interest provision. In addition, TIF reform is needed to allow more TIF dollars to be spent on schools.
QUESTION: How can the Legislature best address the problem of opioid abuse and addiction? Please cite specific laws you have supported or would support.
ANSWER:The Illinois prescription drug monitoring program passed by the legislature is something I support. However this is only one piece of the puzzle. We need to strengthen regulations that currently allow patients to get opioid prescriptions from different doctor and pain clinics. It is also necessary to provide more public education on how to safely dispose of unused prescription pills. We must also provide more funding for law enforcement efforts to cut down on the distribution of heroin and fentanyl on our streets. Illinois also needs to expand drug courts and other diversion programs; California, for example, has saved hundreds of millions of dollars over the last two decades by dismissing charges against eligible individuals who complete drug treatment programs recognized by the courts. In addition, I support the Attorney General and state’s attorneys’ prosecution of actions against pharmaceutical companies who ignored evidence of the destructive nature of their products. Fines or damages recovered from these companies should be used to fund innovative programs to confront this public health crisis.
QUESTION: Do you support a state ban on gun silencers? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes, gun silencers should be banned. Silencers make people less safe and hamper law enforcement. This assertion is supported by the fact that various law enforcement offices have opposed the repeal of the silencer ban. For example, silencers may decrease the effectiveness of Chicago’s new SpotShotter technology, which alerts police as soon as shots are fired rather than citizens alerting police through a traditional 9-1-1 call. Arguments by the gun lobby that silencers protect the hearing of those who shoot for sport are a red herring. Sportsmen can take other measures to protect their hearing that don’t jeopardize the public and hamper law enforcement.
QUESTION: Should all gun dealers in Illinois be licensed by the state? Please explain.
ANSWER:Yes, I strongly support the statewide licensing of gun dealers. It is shameful that even after tragedies around the country like Sandy Hook and the Pulse Nightclub, we don’t have comprehensive and adequately enforced common-sense federal gun regulation. But in the absence of federal action, Illinois should pass common-sense gun regulation to the fullest constitutional extent. That includes statewide licensing for gun dealers. Gun dealers should be subject to examinations and inspections to ensure they are complying with all applicable laws, and should be required to use adequate safety measures to make sure that guns don’t fall into the wrong hands.
QUESTION: Should family members be empowered to petition courts for the temporary removal of guns from emotionally or mentally disturbed people who may be a danger to themselves or others?Please explain.
ANSWER:Yes. Time after time in our country, we have seen what happens when we make weapons easy for everyone to obtain, even those living with a dangerous mental illness. Just as the law allows victims of domestic violence to petition for the removal of firearms from the possession of an abuser, the law should allow concerned family members to remove firearms from those suffering from a mental illness. This is important not just to prevent high-profile large-scale massacres, but also to prevent gun suicides, which are far greater in number than gun homicides.
QUESTION:What would you do to ensure the long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid program?Do you support continued Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act? Should the state continue on a path toward managed care for Medicaid beneficiaries? Should everyone be permitted to buy into Medicaid?
ANSWER: The long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid program requires us to look at the long-term expense and ensure it is fully funded with a specific revenue stream. Medicaid expansion was an important and pivotal piece of the Affordable Care Act and should continue to be expanded. The state should not continue on the path of managed care for Medicaid beneficiaries based on the fact that there are half as many insurance companies working with Medicaid. This is causing Medicaid beneficiaries to lose their choice of providers as more and more insurance companies opt out. I believe in Medicare for all not Medicaid for all.
TOPIC: College student exodus
QUESTION: Illinois is one of the largest exporters of college students in the country. What would you do to encourage the best and brightest young people in Illinois to attend college here at home? Does Illinois have too many state universities, as some have argued?
ANSWER: The state needs to provide more scholarships to Illinois residents. We should especially increase merit-based scholarships to ensure that the best and brightest stay here for their educations. I do not believe we have too many state universities here in Illinois.
TOPIC: Gov. Rauner
QUESTION: Please list three of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s principles, or decisions he has made, with which you agree. Also please list three of the governor’s principles, or decisions he has made, with which you disagree.
ANSWER: I agree with Governor Rauner’s decision to ultimately sign HB40, although he only did so after huge pressure from a massive, coordinated grassroots campaign. I also agree with his support of the Trust Act, which bars state and local police from detaining people solely based on their immigration status. He also signed the automatic voter registration bill, which added one million new voters to the rolls.
I vehemently disagree with Governor Rauner’s position on so-called “right to work” and his anti-worker policies. I disagree with his administration’s tendency to award no-bid contracts and operate with a lack of transparency. Finally, I disagree with his move to veto the very education funding bill that he said he supported; that was the wrong decision and put politics over our communities and children.