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Democratic candidate for Illinois House in the 4th District: Anne Shaw

Anne Shaw, Illinois House 4th District Democratic primary candidate. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

On Jan. 2, Anne Shaw appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked her why she’s running for the Democratic nomination in the Illinois House of Representatives’ 4th District:

My name is Anne Shaw and I’m running for state representative in the 4th District. So, I live in West Town with my husband Matt and, for the last two decades, we’ve been very involved in neighborhood and community activities, trying to make the city a better place to live and also for our neighborhoods. I’ve been a civil rights attorney and I founded a pro bono legal clinic that serves immigrants in the Chinatown and Pilsen communities. I’m running for state representative because our schools need more support so that they can be the places where all our kids can learn.

As a daughter of immigrants, I didn’t speak any English when I went to a public school in the Chicago suburbs. I was assigned a speech therapist who worked with me so that by first grade I was winning spelling bees. I want to see all of the schools in the 4th District have that same access to resources. A big problem for Chicago Public School children is that they don’t have access to all these resources because the state has failed in meeting its obligations to adequately fund our schools. To get adequate funding, we need to revamp and reform our state tax system so that we are not nickel-and-diming working families and we make sure that the wealthiest pay their fair share so that we can invest in our schools and in our communities.


The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates seeking nominations 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. Shaw submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:

TOPIC: Top priorities

QUESTION: Please explain what your specific cause or causes will be. Please avoid a generic topic or issue in your answer.

ANSWER: I am running because Illinois needs to reform its tax system, improve our public schools, and invest in our communities to reduce crime.

The nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy ranks Illinois as the 5th most unfair state when it comes to how our tax burden is distributed. We rely on highly regressive sales taxes and property taxes, and with our flat income tax the top 1% actually end up paying a lower percentage in state and local taxes than the bottom 20%. The problem in Illinois is not the total tax burden, but that we place too much of the burden on working class families. A progressive income tax is a crucial step to making out tax system fair.

It will take a few years for the process of a constitutional amendment for a progressive income tax to pass and be implemented. In the interim, my plan to provide some tax relief to working families is to allow a capped income tax deduction for sales taxes. This would greatly benefit middle and lower income families, and avoid the burden of double taxation. To make up for the lost revenue, the State could close sales and use tax loopholes used primarily by corporations or expand the sales tax base to services. In either case, we can increase revenue to the state while at the same time providing significant income tax relief to working families. I will post details of the plan on my website, www.neighborsforanneshaw.com.

Reforming our tax system also leads to increased revenue while still protecting working families. This revenue is absolutely vital to improve our schools. While the recently passed school funding reform (with the exception of the tax credit for private scholarships) provides a coherent road map to rationally funding and improving school outcomes, public schools in Illinois need much more support from the State.

Investment in our schools is the cornerstone of investing in our communities to reduce crimes. Vibrant and properly funded schools provide job opportunities for our young people, reducing the incentive to commit crimes. Moreover, schools which provide after-school programs are incredibly effective in reducing gang recruitment and activity. We need other investments too, such as adequate mental health facilities and substance abuse treatment programs.

All these programs are related and must be accomplished to provide the kind of support our working families need in the 4th District.


Anne Shaw

Running for: Illinois House of Representatives 4th district

Political/civic background: Community activist

Occupation: Civil rights attorney

Education: DePaul University undergrad/IIT Chicago Kent College of Law J.D.

Campaign website: neighborsforanneshaw.com


TOPIC: Top district needs

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: Support for light manufacturing through a school-to-work apprenticeship. There is a light manufacturing corridor in the 4 th District along Grand Avenue. Many of these companies are small and highly specialized. In this economy, companies like these have a hard time hiring workers with the skills they need. I propose a program that would allow these companies to partner with local high schools and community colleges to develop an apprenticeship program that benefits local youth by providing a path to a good job.

Support local businesses by creating a sales tax holiday for small local retailers on Small Business Saturday to encourage more local shopping. California and Florida are both considering such legislation, and given the prevalence of small family owned shops in the 4 th District, it’s time for Illinois to pass such a bill as well.

Reopen the 13th District police station and mental health services. While this is primarily a city issue, it is an issue that is very important to me. In fact, I first decided to run for office precisely because the City closed our local police station and mental health services in 2011. We see the results of this short-sighted decision in the increase in crime, the further alienation of police from the community, and the number of people who need medical services being treated as a criminal problem. In addition to advocating for legislation that keeps community mental health centers open and makes it harder for a city to shut down small community police stations, I will use my position as state representative to increase the visibility of the continuing problems caused by the City’s budget.

TOPIC: Pension debt

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: The Illinois Supreme Court has now ruled three times that the State is obligated to pay the pensions it promised. While I think that the idea of a consideration model – that state employees can be offered different pension benefits – is possible, the decisions of the Supreme Court make clear that that one of the options have to be at least as good as the plan currently available. In other words, a consideration model cannot be used to reduce pension benefits.

Since the Supreme Court has ruled three times that benefits cannot be reduced, the responsible thing is for the General Assembly to start putting aside money to pay the pension debt. A responsible plan would include a dedicated funding source, reamortization of the debt over a 30 or 40 year period and a level dollar payment plan rather than a “ramp to the ARC.” In other words, it would look much like a conventional mortgage. In the past, the ramp to the ARC required a payment that increased each year, putting off the payments to the future with each year’s payment increasing. Of course, because each year requires a higher payment, the pension debt continues to squeeze budgets year after year. If we had a dedicated funding source with a level dollar payment, this squeeze would not happen. It may require some short term pain, but long term a real solution to our pension debt frees the state to concentrate on its other priorities.

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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: I support a $15/hour minimum wage indexed to inflation. Every job should be a job that pays a living wage. Companies such as Target, Wells Fargo, and Fifth Third Bank have already announced that they are increasing their lowest wage to $15/hour. Cities such as Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have raised their minimum wage to $15/hour without any significant impact on employment. Illinois should follow suit.

TOPIC: Marijuana

QUESTION: Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.

ANSWER: I support legalizing recreational marijuana. We incarcerate too many non-violent offenders for marijuana, and destroy their lives by making it harder to get jobs as a convicted felon. These offenders are then forced into criminal activities simply to survive, and we all pay the cost.

TOPIC: Casinos

QUESTION: Would you support more casinos in Illinois, including in Chicago. What about racinos? Please explain.

ANSWER: I could support a Chicago casino depending on how the revenue from such a casino was allocated. For better or for worse, gambling is readily available to people in the Chicago area. There is no reason why the City should continue losing out on revenue it needs. However, any gaming revenue from a Chicago casino has to be spent responsibly and I would want strict limits on how that revenue is used.

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: There are almost 7,000 local government units in Illinois with the power to levy property taxes. An across-the-board, one-size-fits-all property tax freeze does not take into account the different fiscal situation of the different units of government, and would not address the fundamental problem that Illinois relies too heavily on property taxes to fund education.

The best way to provide property tax relief is for the state to finally live up to its obligation to properly fund schools. The single biggest component of the property tax is the levy for public education. Illinois is the second worst state for state funding of education, having shifted most of the burden to the school districts through the property tax. The way to fix this is by reforming the Illinois tax system so that it is more fair. We need a progressive income tax, sales tax reform, and a thorough review of tax expenditures. These changes will increase state revenue while protecting working families, and that increased revenue should be used to fund education, thus taking pressure off the property tax.

TOPIC: School funding

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: Other than the income tax credit for scholarships to private schools, the school funding reform passed by the General Assembly in SB 1947 provides a good road map for equitable state funding. However, as good as the road map is, it requires additional funding from the State.

I believe that tax reform that includes a progressive income tax, a sales tax deduction while closing loopholes used by corporations or expanding the sales tax base to some services, and a thorough review of tax expenditures provides the clearest path to getting the revenue our schools need while still protecting working families.

TOPIC: Opioid abuse

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 recent budget stalemate devastated social services like substance abuse treatment, and we will be paying the cost for a long time. The first step is getting our fiscal house in order so that we can start rebuilding our social service and mental health treatment infrastructure.

Illinois’ response to the opioid epidemic has to focus on three elements. The first is prevention. Paradoxically, one important step in prevention is legalizing recreational marijuana. Many people start their opioid addiction by using pain medication to self-medicate. The availability of a non-addictive substance would reduce the number of people who turn to the far more addictive pain killers such as Vicodin. Similarly, we need to keep better track of which physicians over-prescribe pain killers.

The second element is treatment. Substance abuse treatment programs get put on the chopping block all too often, and the result is that even when an addict wants to get better she often can’t. I support restoring funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment. I also think we need to seriously look into providing more pharmaceutical options to control addiction. For some, the current treatment regime of programs like Narcotics Anonymous simply does not work. (For others, NA has performed miracles.) The FDA has recently approved generic Suboxone and Naltrexone for treating opioid addiction. The State should be funding programs to increase access to these medicines, especially in conjunction with programs like NA.

The third element is addressing the dangers of overdose and heroin contaminated with Fentyl and similar substances. I support legislation making Narcan, a drug that is very effective in treating someone who is overdosing, more readily available and training police officers in its administration and use.

TOPIC: Guns

QUESTION: Do you support a state ban on gun silencers? Please explain.

ANSWER: Yes, I support continuing ban on gun silencers. The only legitimate use of a silencer is for target practice on a gun range, and noise cancelling headphones already serve that purpose.

QUESTION: Should all gun dealers in Illinois be licensed by the state? Please explain.

ANSWER: Yes. A handful of gun shops are responsible for the overwhelming number of guns that end up being used in criminal acts. State licensing should not affect the business operations of legitimate dealers, but will provide a necessary tool to start cracking down on gun shops that are responsible for flooding our streets with guns used in crime.

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. Beyond their use in crimes, guns are a public health problem because of injuries caused by guns. Many of those injuries occur when a depressed family member tries to commit suicide, or when mentally ill people act on violent impulses. No one knows who is at risk better than family members, and family members should have the tools to prevent such tragedies.

TOPIC: Medicaid

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: Long term viability of the State’s Medicaid program is directly related to public support for the Medicaid program. Since healthcare should be available to everyone, I support Medicaid expansion under ACA – it’s one of the best deals the federal government has offered under Medicaid. Moveover, I support the idea of opening up the Medicaid program to individuals who wish to buy into it. The actuarial viability of any health care insurance depends on having as broad of a base of covered individuals as possible.

I am wary of our path to managed care. The recent procurement of Medicaid managed care has raised more questions than answers, and appears to be in direct violation of both procurement law and general good government principles. Moreover, the current Governor seems to think that the way to balance the budget is to squeeze health care providers. Medicaid providers are already underpaid, and I doubt that there is much room left to squeeze them – especially when the expectations of managed care insurance companies are that they will make a profit.

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: One of the most damaging consequences of the recent budget stalemate is the number of Illinois students who decided on attending a university out of state because of concerns over budget cuts. It’s unacceptable that young people have to take politics into account when deciding on where they should study and learn. We need to assure young people that Illinois supports higher education and that we will not allow politics to undermine their learning.

The damage caused by the devastating cuts to higher education is not limited to students deciding to attend college out of state. Our state university system is one of the key drivers of economic growth and innovation. It is shortsighted to balance our current budget by starving state universities and by cutting MAP grants used at other Illinois colleges and universities. I will support higher education and seek to increase the opportunities that our state universities provide for young people from working families.

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: Governor Rauner’s administration has done a poor job in many, many ways. His fight for his unpopular and unnecessary “Turnaround Agenda” has devastated social services, ruined our credit rating, and hurt Illinois families. However, in the spirit of your question:

I applaud Governor Rauner for signing HB40, the legislation that keeps abortion safe and legal in Illinois regardless of what the Supreme Court may decide. I am disappointed that it took a while for him to commit to signing it, and I am disappointed that he brags about his support of pro-life candidates, but he did the right thing in signing HB 40.

I commend Governor Rauner’s support of his wife, Diana’s, work with the Ounce of Prevention Fund. The Ounce is a great organization that does important work in advocating for children and providing direct services. I believe that on a personal level, Governor Rauner supports his wife’s work and the organization’s goals. It makes it even more bewildering that he let the budget crisis get out of hand.

Governor Rauner deserves credit for promoting criminal justice reform. He understands that incarceration is not always the best alternative, and he has worked with a variety of stakeholders to come up with proposals that move towards rehabilitation of offenders.

There are many issues with which I disagree with the Governor, however three of them are:

Sacrificing the state’s fiscal health in favor of a “Turnaround Agenda” that is really about taking power away from working people. Our social services are devastated, our credit rating is ruined, and real people suffered. What happened in an attempt to pass his agenda was inexcusable.

We are still learning all the details, but Governor Rauner’s attempt to bypass procurement laws to get a $60 billion plus managed care contract is beyond troubling. At a minimum, he showed an incredible disregard for the principles of transparency in government. However, it is entirely possible that in the end this will be another bad deal for the people of Illinois along the lines of the parking meter privatization deal.

Governor Rauner’s continued attempts to divert resources away from traditional public schools to charter and private schools shows an elitist attitude towards public education. Access to good schools should not be limited by income or by ability to travel to a good school further away. Each Governor Rauner apparently believes that the way to better results is to cull some students and place them in schools with all the best resources, while letting all the other schools and students be second rate. I disagree. Each of our schools should be committed to excellence.


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