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. Thaddeus Jones 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: As the chair of the Community College Access and Affordability committee and a member of the Appropriations – Higher Education committee, I want students throughout the state, specifically those who live in low-income communities, to have access to low-cost, higher education. The cost of getting a degree is preventing many high school students from attending college or forcing them to put themselves in unmanageable debt. We also need to make sure that there are programs, such as apprenticeship programs with local labor unions, that help students who are unable or do not want to get a traditional degree. No student should be prevented from being able to have a successful career because they could not afford the high cost of a degree.During Gov. Rauner’s nearly three-year budget crisis low-income students were kicked out of the classroom because he was more concerned with busting labor unions and cutting wages for middle-class families than the future of our young people. I will make it a priority to stand up to the Trump-Rauner agenda that puts multi-million-dollar corporations ahead of the careers of young people in Illinois.
Legislative District: House District 29
Political/civic background: Current State Representative; Former Calumet City Alderman
Occupation: State Representative
- South Suburban College, Associates Degree
- Loyola University, Bachelors Degree
- Loyola School of Law, Juris Doctor
Campaign website: www.thaddeusjonesforstaterep.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: As I go door-to-door and events throughout my district, there are many issues that my constituents bring up that I am committed to finding solutions to. They include, but are not limited to:
- Reducing the property tax burden: When working families are unable to stay in their homes because they can no longer afford to pay their property taxes, we have a responsibility to find ways to reduce this large, financial burden. That is why I have supported freezing property taxes for 4 years.
- Reducing crime: The families in my district, especially in the communities of Chicago, Calumet City, Dolton, Glenwood and Ford Heights, are too often the victims of senseless gun violence and other crimes. As a father, I want to ensure that my children do not have to be afraid to live in their own community because of crime. That is why during my time as state representative I have supported policies that ban ‘bump-stock’ modifications (House Bill 4117, 100th GA), restrict people with a history of domestic violence from owning a firearm (House Bill 6331, 99th GA), and others. Donald Trump and his extreme allies at the National Rifle Associations need to be stood up against, and I will make it a priority to push forward reforms to ensure that our families are safe.
- Creating new, good-paying jobs: The hard-working families in my district deserve to have access to jobs that pay them a fair wage, but the governor’s continuous attempts to eliminate collective bargaining rights is putting their wages at risk. That is why I support policies that help lift-up working families, including raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and implementing a progressive income tax so that millionaires and billionaires have to pay their fair share. Not only do we need to be sure that wages are fair, but small and medium sized businesses must be given the ability to compete with the multi-billiondollar corporations that are shipping our families’ jobs overseas. That is why I supported a measure (House Bill 160, 100th GA) that provides local business owners with tax credits when they create local jobs.
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: When discussing any changes to the state pensions, we have to be sure that the benefits that people have earned are protected and that all stakeholders are a part of the conversation, which includes organized labor. Any changes that are made cannot be done on the backs of working families; the proposal also needs to make fiscal sense. I would have to see a proposal that ensures that these two criteria are met. As a note, the state has made full statutory pension payments in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
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: Everyone deserves to earn a living wage, which is why I supported raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour (Senate Bill 81, 100th General Assembly).
QUESTION: Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes. By legalizing recreational marijuana, we can use the dollars that are generated through the legalization to help pay for our schools, and other vital public health, education and public safety programs. It also could reduce the amount of crime that occurs due to the sale of the drug, reduce the influence that gangs have, and ultimately make our communities safer.
QUESTION: Would you support more casinos in Illinois, including in Chicago. What about racinos? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes, I would support more casinos in Illinois so that the revenue generated can be used to improve our schools and make health care more accessible.
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: In June, I supported Senate Bill 484, which would implement a 4-year property tax freeze and allow for voter-approved debt service and pension obligations. It also was a way to meet the governor half-way on the issue.
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: I supported Senate Bill 1947 to ensure that every student in my district, especially those who live in Chicago, have access to a fair and equitable education. During the school funding debate, Governor Rauner played a game that put the education, and future, of our students in jeopardy. The new formula invests in every school, without picking winners and losers. In addition, in 2016 I supported a millionaire’s tax that would put a small tax on individuals with an income of over $1 million while providing nearly $1 billion to our schools. I will continue to support a tax system that requires the wealthiest individuals in the state to pay their fair share to ensure that our students can receive a world-class education.
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: During Governor Rauner’s three-year budget crisis, people suffering from opioid and substance abuse were unable to receive the care that they needed to recover from their addiction, which is why I supported a budget that funds substance abuse services.
I also supported the Heroin Crisis Act (House Bill 1, 99th GA), which was a comprehensive package to fight this epidemic. Due to the law, Illinois residents have access to the lifesaving, overdose prevention medication, Naloxone, first responders are better equipped to respond to an overdose, and more people have access to treatment.
Most importantly, to combat this serious epidemic there needs to be a discussion about how lowincome and working-families are being affected by this problem, and from there we need to develop a plan to provide them with good-paying jobs and a world-class education.
QUESTION: Do you support a state ban on gun silencers? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes. Our communities are being plagued by gun violence, and it is unacceptable that the NRA and their Republican allies are pushing policies that would make guns more accessible and our communities less safe.
QUESTION: Should all gun dealers in Illinois be licensed by the state? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes. This is a common-sense policy that other industries throughout the state abide by, including car dealerships, real estate agents and beauty salons, which is why I am a co-sponsor of SB 1657. The NRA and the Republicans needs to put their extreme agenda aside and put the families of our communities first.
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. If a family member feels that a loved one may harm themselves or others then they should have the ability to temporarily remove the guns from the loved one.
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: Yes, I support continued Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which is why I supported Senate Bill 26 of the 98th GA. Everyone deserves access to health care, regardless of their income level, and we also need to ensure that we stand up to Donald Trump and his extreme allies who want to cut access to healthcare for working families. Rather than standing up to Trump, the governor has put forward a proposal that would privatize Medicaid and put the profits of multi-billion-dollar insurance companies ahead of the well-being of working families throughout Illinois. I oppose the governor’s proposal because it could make care less accessible and increase costs for working families. Instead, I support a public option that allows families to buy into Medicaid so that they can receive the health care that they need.
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: During Governor Rauner’s budget crisis our institutions of higher education were on the brink of closure, and many students were unable to continue their education because they could not afford to stay in Illinois. That is why I supported Senate Bill 6 to end the governor’s budget crisis and provide our universities with the funding that they need.
To ensure that our students can receive a competitive education, we have to reduce the costs of higher education so that our students do not have to put themselves into thousands of dollars of debt.
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: As an elected official, it is my responsibility to work with anyone who is willing to work together to develop solutions to the serious problems that are plaguing my community. That is why I have supported proposals that would freeze property taxes (SB 484, 100th GA), reform workers’ compensation (HB 200 and HB 2525, 100th GA) and consolidate units of local government (SB 3, 100th GA). These were all proposals that met the governor half-way on these important issues, but the governor has regularly refused to compromise. His inability to compromise forced the state to go without a budget for over 700 days and prevented seniors, children, people with disabilities, veterans, and countless other individuals from receiving the vital services that their lives depend upon. He has continuously put the profits of multi-billion-dollar corporations ahead of the lives of our residents, while attempting to eliminate collective bargaining rights and reduce wages for working and middle-class families. Meanwhile, he refuses to stand up to Donald Trump and in-fact applauded Trump on a plan that would cut health care coverage for millions of Illinois families. His demands and inability to compromise caused severe financial damage to the state and put the lives of every single Illinois resident in jeopardy.