On Feb. 12, Robert F. Martwick appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked him why he’s running for the Illinois House of Representatives in the 19th District:
My name is Robert Martwick and I am the state representative of the 19th District which includes the Northwest Side of the city of Chicago, areas of Portage Park and Jefferson Park, Dunning, and little bits of suburbs — Norridge, Harwood Heights, Elmwood Park and River Grove.
My priorities in the upcoming legislative year will begin to find ways to create balanced budgets for Illinois and manage our pension debt. I think it’s really critical that we get our financial house in order because the debt accumulation that we’ve seen over the course of the last three years has really created a problem and we need to get that under control. Not just for our current operations but also for the financial health of the next generation.
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. Robert Martwick submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
TOPIC: Top Priorities
- Elected Representative School Board for CPS.
- Bill that will permit issuing General Obligation bonds to secure the pension debt and provide savings to the taxpayer. The bill would allow the state to sell enough bonds to cover 90% of the unfunded liability. 65% of the proceeds would be placed in the funds, and 35% would be placed into an interest arbitrage account. Based on mathematical models performed by a University of Illinois professor, this plan would create over $100 Billion in savings over the current “actuarial ramp” the state is currently using.
- Discounted Present Cash Value Buyout of Tier 1 COLA. This bill would provide an option (voluntary) to current and future Tier 1 retirees. The retirement systems would be permitted to allow the retirees to forgo their Tier 1 COLA (3% Compounding) in exchange for the lower Tier 2 COLA (the lower of 3% or the rate of inflation, calculated on a simple basis) and a discounted cash buyout of the difference in the value between the the two COLAs.
- Consolidated Deferred Compensation Plan for teachers. Currently, Illinois is suffering a severe shortage of teachers, partly because of the austerity of the Tier 2 pension. This makes supplemental savings essential. However under the current system, each school district has the authority to offer their own deferred compensation plan. In many instances, the private vendors offering these plans are charging fees in excess of optimal, causing large scale diminishment in retirement savings for the teachers. My plan would require TRS to offer a low-cost, high-performing option that teachers could choose, allowing them to maximize their retirement savings.
- Downstate Police and Fire Consolidation. Currently, every single police and fire district has a separate pension system (even if there is only a single employee). By consolidating the funds into an IMRF style system, the assets of the funds could be consolidated in order to leverage better returns, and we could eliminate administrative waste.
Robert F. Martwick
State Representative – 19th District
State Representative (2013-present)
- Chief sponsor of the Elected Representative School Board for CPS bill
- Chief Sponsor of Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits Act
- Authored Automatic Objection amendment to Concealed Carry law (helps deny licenses to habitual offenders)
- Chief sponsor of the Amusement Ride Safety Act and Fund
- Chief sponsor of juvenile justice reform
- Chief sponsor of homeowner’s and senior’s exemption increase
- Active co-sponsor of Marriage Equality Act (helped whip votes for chief sponsor)
- Convened meetings between Chicago, FAA and FAiR Coalition to address runway noise at O’Hare
- Chief co-sponsor of bill that eliminated felony upgrade of prostitution
- Chief sponsor of bill that allowed updates and changes to antiquated Northwest Home Equity and Assurance Assoc.
- Proposed wholesale restructuring of Illinois’ tax and financial structure, demonstrating how Illinois can raise revenue sufficient to lower property taxes and sales taxes, sufficiently pay for pensions, dramatically increase funding for education, and make the state more business friendly.
Trustee, Village of Norridge (1999-2011)
- Headed the committee on economic development
- Renegotiated village refuse removal contract
Trustee, Norwood Park Township (1993-1997)
- Created township youth council
Candidate for Cook County Commissioner 2002
Candidate for Illinois Senate 1996
Little League baseball coach 2000-2001
Little League baseball board member 2000-2001
- JD, John Marshall Law School (1996)
- BA, Economics. Boston College (1988)
- Loyola Academy College Prep (1984)
Campaign Website: RobertMartwick.com
TOPIC: Top district needs
- Completion of the Chicago Veterans Home. Construction of this home, which was authorized in 2010 has been delayed because of the budget impasse. While the construction has finally resumed, the project needs to be completed, without further delay, in order to provide housing and assistance to veterans who are living with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
- Pension security for public sector workers. My district has a large number of middle and working class public sector employees and retirees who are concerned that government will not make good on the retirement that they were promised.
- Increased funding for education. My district is full of top performing CPS neighborhood schools, all of which are over-crowded. Increased and equitable funding will provide the resources to ensure that all of these students have the best opportunities to succeed.
TOPIC: Pension debt
- I do not support re-amortization of the debt. This is just another way of “kicking the can” down the road on our obligations. By simply extending the payments, we dramatically increase the cost of the debt and saddling the next generation with even worse problems than the generation before left for us. Instead, I support debt management measures like the ones I will be pursuing (see the section on Top Priorities, above). We should strive to reduce the cost of the debt, and solve the problem once and for all.
- I do not support a constitutional amendment that would allow unilateral diminishment of pension obligations. The fact is that Illinois did not over-promise pension obligations.
Instead, the unfunded liability was created entirely by the unwillingness of the government to properly fund the pension systems. Not only do I think that passing a constitutional amendment is wrong, I think it would likely be entirely ineffective. The Tier 2 pension system is self-sustaining and costs the taxpayers ZERO. The unfunded liability is entirely related to the Tier 1 System, which no new employees are permitted to enter. Given the ruling of the Supreme Court, I believe that they would rule that any amendment to the constitution could only be applied prospectively and not retroactively.
TOPIC: Minimum wage
I support an increase in the minimum wage up to $15 per hour. I support this because I believe in bottom up, not trickle-down, economics. By raising the minimum wage, we would give a financial boost to the lowest income and hardest working workers. This additional disposable income would be dumped back into the economy as these workers are likely to spend every additional dollar they make.
I am a Co-Sponsor of the bill that would provide for the legalization, regulation and taxation of recreational marijuana. Illinois must look at every option for revenue and legalization would help on both sides of the ledger. We could generate substantial revenue by taxing legal marijuana sales. Legalization would also help to cut the enormous amount of money and resources that we spend on policing and prosecuting marijuana sale and possession. This would allow us to save money and redirect those resources to help stem the growing tide of violent crime.
I support all forms of gaming expansion. While not my preferred manner of raising revenue, gambling is now pervasive in our society. Any Illinoisan can find a race-track, OTB, video gaming venue, or even stop in the local gas station or convenience store and buy lotto tickets.
Further restricting the expansion of gambling in Illinois only serves to protect the financial interests of current gambling establishments. I believe that Illinois should seek to allow more free market competition in the gambling industry (with proper oversight and regulation). When casinos compete, they will create a better product for the consumer and maximize the collection of revenue for the state.
Bookmark the Sun-Times 2018 Illinois Primary Voting Guide
TOPIC: Property tax freeze
A property tax freeze is perhaps the most politically motivated initiative created by Gov. Rauner. The underlying policy is foolish and detrimental and is only being pushed because it sounds good to the average voter. Illinois already has a very strict and effective set of property tax limits. A property tax freeze only serves to handcuff the ability of local government to do what is necessary to secure and stabilize their finances. If your local government is acting irresponsibly, you can make changes through the course of elections, as local government provides the most access and allows your vote to have the most influence as compared to every other layer of government. A property tax freeze sounds like it will “reign in irresponsible government,” but the truth is very different. Local governments are typically for more responsible than the state government and a freeze is arbitrary, regardless of how efficiently and responsibly your local government has operated. For those governments how do operate responsibly, and arbitrary freeze can very likely cause the loss of critical services that the local taxpayer wants and/or needs. When that happens and enough people decide to make a change, they may very well end up passing a referendum that increases the taxes more than if they had simply been allowed to continue operation under the property tax limits already in place. Illinois needs real property tax RELIEF, not a phony freeze. The only way to ensure that we get relief is for the state to live up to its obligation to properly fund education. That will only be achieved if we raise the necessary revenue through a graduated income tax which can then be used to pay down our pension debts and provide a property tax DECREASE.
TOPIC: School funding
Yes, Illinois should look to immediately spend the additional $3.5 billion necessary to properly fund education. This cannot be achieved until we provide real budgetary savings or raise revenue. Neither will be done this year. However, if legislators and the new governor have the courage, we can amend the constitution to permit graduated income tax rates. I have filed a bill that would install the same income tax rate structure as the state of Wisconsin. The additional revenue raised would be dedicated to properly funding schools and lowering property and sales taxes. As these two taxes are the most detrimental to businesses and the most regressive, we could help improve the state’s business climate, while also providing tax relief for middle class, working class, and poor, helping to spur the economy and create more demand for businesses.
TOPIC: Opioid crisis
Illinois needs to enact bold laws to address the opioid crisis. I favor a wholesale approach that increases penalties for black market sales of the drugs, strict regulation of doctors who prescribe to ensure they do no over-prescribe, and increased addiction treatment. I worked as a Chief Co-Sponsor on a bill that would require pharmacies to provide combination locking lids on prescription bottles.
QUESTION: Do you support a state ban on gun silencers? Please explain.
QUESTION: Should all gun dealers in Illinois be licensed by the state? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes. I have been a strong supporter of the Gun Dealers Licensing Act.
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. As a former domestic violence prosecutor, I am aware that the majority of murders occur in domestic settings. When family members have a reasonable belief that a gun in the house could cause harm or death due to the mental instability of someone who has access to that gun, they should be able to turn to our system of criminal justice BEFORE a crime happens. The proceeding could either be a part of or similar to the process for obtaining an Order of Protection.
I believe that our health care problems need to be addressed and solved at the Federal Level. I also believe that the whole purpose of the Affordable Care Act was to lower the cost of health care by getting everyone insured so that people we not defaulting on huge hospital bills that they could not pay and having those costs born by those will insurance. Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act was not given enough time to provide the savings, nor were any constructive tweaks offered for the program before the Trump administration began dismantling it. Leaving millions of Americans uninsured will only serve to drive up the cost of health care once again as those uninsured do not seek regular medical attention and default on large hospitalization bills once again. As such, I believe that we in Illinois should look to provide a public option, like allowing everyone to buy into Medicaid. We should also reject the managed care offered by Gov. Rauner, as it has proven to be more costly and diminish the quality of service, all in the name of privatized profits for the providers.
TOPIC: College student exodus
Students are leaving Illinois for one simple reason: They cannot afford to go to college here. Gov. Rauner has systematically decimated one of the real bright spots in our state by seeking to destroy public universities. Illinois does not have too many universities. These schools are economic generators for their local communities and they turn out one of the great assets in our state: an educated and accessible workforce. Gov Rauner has disinvested in these universities which has caused economic harm to the areas where they are located and has driven down enrollment. Illinois must re-invest in higher education and MAP grants to ensure that bright and energetic Illinois students have good and affordable options here at home.
TOPIC: Gov. Rauner
Items on which I agree with Gov. Rauner
- Non-Partisan Map drawing of election districts
- Increased funding for K-12 education and a more equitable funding formula
- Creating and Elected School Board for CPS.
Items on which I disagree with Gov. Rauner:
- Local “right to work for less” zones
- Elimination of collective bargaining rights for public employees
- Cuts to funding for State Universities and critical social services