On Jan. 2, Iris J. Millán 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:
I’m Iris Millán. I’m running for 4th District state representative. I’m a Democrat and my whole career and volunteerism work has been dedicated to the very communities that I hope to represent in Springfield. Civic engagement is certainly a passion for me. As an immigrant, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to become a resident and to become a citizen of this country and it is a privilege for me to sit here before you today exercising that very citizenship that so many others take for granted.
Some of the civic experience that I’ve had is my most recent appointment three years ago to the Cook County Commission on Women’s Issues representing the 8th Cook County District. I serve on the Saints Mary & Elizabeth Medical Center Community Leadership Board, also in the 4th District. I like to be engaged in the political process in my community for the past several years. That includes being apart of the 1st Ward First, it’s a Political Action Committee also in the 4th District.
It’s not hard to identify causes to work for really strongly in Springfield. The past several years have been, especially with the budget impasse of almost three years, have been an easy target for vulnerable populations in Illinois and I think it is important for us to recognize that and to ensure that there is equitable representation across the board and certainly I will do that as a legislator in the 4th District.
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. Millán 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 have three main priorities in Springfield. First, I believe that undocumented immigrants are unfairly denied crucial government services that help low-income families thrive in Illinois. To level the playing field, I believe we should extend benefits to these families since the federal government refuses to fix our broken immigration system. Second, we need to focus on creating good-paying jobs in our district and to promote economic development for ordinary families, not the well off. Finally, we have to invest more in education. I was fortunate that in the public schools I attended, I could learn English. Investing in our children gives our City and State the best chance for success. I believe that focusing on these three areas will also help address public safety issues that 4th district residents have spoken loudly and clearly about.
Iris J. Millán
Running for: Illinois House of Representatives 4th district
Political/civic background: Community Affairs Liaison
Wilbur Wright College (City Colleges of Chicago)
May 2015 – Present
Community Development Manager
St. Joseph Services
August, 2012 – May, 2015
Director of Community Affairs, 1st Ward Office
City of Chicago
March, 2010 – July, 2012
Commission on Women’s Issues, 8th District Appointee
Cook County Government
May, 2015 – Present
Executive Board Member
Center for Changing Lives
October, 2015 – August, 2017
Advisor, Latin American Student Organization (LASO)
City Colleges of Chicago-Wilbur Wright College
August, 2016 – Present
Board Executive Committee
1st Ward First Democratic Independent Organization
May, 2014 – Present
Community Leadership Board Member
Presence St. Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center
January, 2015 – Present
Office of US Senator Richard J. Durbin
January, 2010 – April, 2010
Occupation: Community Affairs Liaison, City Colleges of Chicago, May 2015 – Present
Education: Northeastern Illinois University
Candidate for Master of Arts, Higher Education Leadership and Administration, (2016-2018)
Bachelor of Arts, Political Science and Government (2003-2008)
Campaign website: irisforstaterep.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: Economic development – I want to increase our investments in public transportation. This is good for both the environment and our local economy when reliable, affordable transportation is available to residents.
Strengthen neighborhoods – Two important actions will keep our communities strong and stable. First, we have to have a comprehensive approach to public safety. Our police officers need to be trained well, properly resourced, and thoroughly embedded in our communities to build relationships. That will address crime and trust issues. Second, we need to make sure that growth and development in our community doesn’t push longtime residents out. Gentrification is a loaded term, but there are clear adverse effects that must be addressed. I would promote more low-income housing assistance and provide property tax relief through a revamped state financing system that has a progressive income tax as its core.
Increase investments in public education – As discussed above, we cannot succeed as a region without great schools. I would increase the funding to public education in Illinois and build upon the gains recently won in Springfield to change the funding formula to help poor districts. With those new funds, we should make investments in wrap around services, arts education, PE, and after school programs that provide students with a stimulating and safe learning environment.
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?
Years of skirting payments has created the pension crisis, so I am reluctant to kick the can down the road. However, re-amortizing Illinois’ pension liability is a sound financial move and would provide some breathing room from the pension payments eating up the entire budget. I do not support a constitutional amendment that diminishes the current pension liability.
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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 raising the state minimum wage to $15 an hour. Raising the minimum wage would help alleviate some of the burdens that many impoverished, low-income families face.
QUESTION: Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes. With the proper legal infrastructure and taxation, the legalization of recreational Cannabis could open the door to new state revenues, all while reducing enforcement costs for police departments across the state.
QUESTION: Would you support more casinos in Illinois, including in Chicago. What about racinos? Please explain.
Chicago has a strong need for an entertainment option such as this, therefore I would support expansion of gambling.
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.
I would not support a property tax freeze as proposed by the current administration. Property tax freezes shifts the tax burden to local governments that are already facing fiscal problems. Should the state decide to freeze property taxes, other forms of revenues – such as a progressive income tax – must fill the gap.
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: Yes, as discussed above, I believe that Illinois should spend more on public schools. We have to begin our discussion with a progressive income tax with brackets that reflect enormous earnings at the top of the scale. Additionally, we have to modernize our tax system in Illinois. It is unfair that brick and mortar retail operations bore the brunt of sales tax collection for years while Amazon skirted such collections by selling over the internet. I support a fair, modern tax system that levels the playing field between businesses of all sorts.
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 legislature should work to limit the number of opioids that can be prescribed to a patient, while also making addiction treatment easier to access through insurance. Whether this should be addressed through Medicaid, the insurance exchanges, or through mandated changes to Illinois’ insurance requirements, I am open to exploring. I am also supportive of medical marijuana being available as treatment for chronic pain.
QUESTION: Do you support a state ban on gun silencers? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes. Silencers are dangerous tools used by criminals to hide their crimes.
QUESTION: Should all gun dealers in Illinois be licensed by the state? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes. Licensing gun dealers would give Illinois an advantage in limiting the illegal sale of firearms, while also giving law enforcement a tool to monitor gun trafficking from surrounding states.
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. Family often know best when there is trouble and they should have access to the courts to protect people from hurting themselves or a loved one when guns are involved.
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: I would fight any efforts that defund or reduce Medicaid benefits, and I would continue its expansion under the ACA. Stabilization and expansion might be achievable through proposed plans for Medicaid buy in and I look forward to working with a new Democratic Governor on this issue. I think a buy in could serve as the much needed “public option” that the ACA lacked. We have to be careful about managed care for Medicaid as the proposed cost savings are not always apparent when accounting for patient care.
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: Illinois has failed to keep the cost of college affordable for working families and Bruce Rauner exacerbated the problem by failing to pass a budget for three years. We have to make Illinois families see that our system is a great investment that leads to a great job. We should provide students from Illinois – especially those with promise in high demand fields – robust incentives to study here and work with employers to forgive debt or provide attractive incentives for graduates to make Illinois home.
I do not believe Illinois has too many State Universities.
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: Agree: Signing of the Trust Act, which protects immigrants from being detained
Governor Rauner’s decision to sign HB 40, protecting pro-choice laws in Illinois.
His efforts to curtail the “gay panic defense”
Allowing Illinois to go 793 days without a budget
His push for “Right to Work” legislation, and the destruction of unions
Cutting funding for institutions of higher education