On Feb. 2, David Bonner appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked him why he’s running for the Democratic nomination in the Illinois House of Representatives in the 38th District:
My name is David Bonner. I was born and raised in Matteson, Illinois. I graduated from Rich Central High School and from there on I went to Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. I went on to the University of Wisconsin Law School on a scholarship.
After that, I decided to join the military. I served as an Army Captain, I served two tours. From then on I started my legal career at the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, representing working families throughout the state of Illinois. I traveled 88 counties from Cairo to Rockford, and it was great work to make sure that we took care of working folks and we made sure we represented them and fought for those who were not getting a living wage, who were not getting a prevailing wage. I also worked for the state’s attorney, I worked both under Kim Foxx and Anita Alvarez.
I was called back to active duty last year. I worked at the Pentagon. I served under both the Obama and the transitional Trump administration and I was able to see at that level, I worked for the secretary of the Army both for Eric McCarthy who’s the current secretary of the army and for Robert Spears, the Obama acting secretary in the changeover. So, that’s a little bit about myself.
What I hope to accomplish is we’ve got to fix this property-tax system. It’s broken. And it’s hurting a lot of folks in this state and in my particular region and we’ve got to make sure we have a fair tax system. And so what I hope to accomplish, and my big thing that I am going to be fighting for and I’m going to work across the aisle on that is to make sure we have a fair tax system. It’s unfair for people like Ken Griffin who make sixty million dollars a month to pay the same rate as I do at 4.9 percent. I’m not a millionaire. I’m not a billionaire. I’m a thousand dollar-aire.
And so, we need to make sure that people are paying their fair share in the tax system because when they don’t, working folks and middle-income folks basically carry the water for wealthy people. And I got in this race because I was tired of it. I was tired of seeing no budget, I was tired of seeing people get away with an unfair system and I’m here to change that. So, that’s what I’m working for.
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. Bonner 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: My top priority will be bringing state resources to the Southland region of the Chicago metropolitan area. The Southland region has a population of 441,000 but only about 130,000 jobs in the region; 74 percent of Southland residents work outside the area. We have an overall poverty rate of 19 percent, more than the average poverty rate across the Chicago region. I will work to advance the issues of resource allocation and equity for the Southland to address mass transit and transportation inequities, education funding reform, property tax relief and reform, and a lack of coordinated economic development.
Running for: Illinois House of Representatives 25th district
Political/civic background: Democratic
Education: University of Wisconsin Law School
Campaign website: votedavidbonner.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: Specific problems facing the 38th district are mass transit and transportation inequities, education funding reform, property tax relief and reform, and a lack of coordinated economic development.
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: I support re-amortizing the pension debt. I will work with fellow lawmakers to develop an appropriate repayment schedule and make sure that payment for the pension debt is legally enforceable by the pension systems. Re-amortization would allow Illinois to catch up on paying off its pension debt by 2045. If the constitutional amendment seeks to diminish pension benefits, we should not punish working men and women because prior legislators and governors failed to make required pension payments into the state’s five pension funds and used the money for other purposes. Alternatively, Illinois could use a constitutional amendment to change its current income tax system. We need a graduated rate income tax system that increases the tax rate on Illinois residents who can afford to pay more. It is a more efficient tax and would put Illinois on the pathway to financial stability.
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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: Yes, we need to eliminate this root cause of poverty. Income inequality keeps many urban, suburban and rural families in poverty. When our minimum wage does not provide a living wage, we create structural barriers to economic and social mobility! Government can effectively boost economic and social mobility by raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and increase thereafter to account for inflation.
QUESTION: Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes, with the proper regulation, legalizing marijuana would produce much needed revenue for the state.
QUESTION: Would you support more casinos in Illinois, including in Chicago. What about racinos? Please explain.
ANSWER: No, I believe casinos prey on the poor and uneducated and can attract criminal elements.
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: Property tax relief is desperately needed in the Southland region. Illinois relies too heavily on property taxes to fund local governments. We need an alternative source of revenue. A graduated income tax system would provide the necessary funding for local governments and give Illinois residents much-needed property tax relief.
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: Illinois has a funding crisis facing K-12 education. Funding based on local property taxes in many rural, urban and suburban areas is inadequate. Illinois must further reform its funding method. Educational funding should be based on a graduated income tax. Illinois will need a highly skilled workforce that has received the requisite training for 21st Century jobs! In order to meet this goal, each school should provide the same high level of training and opportunity.
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 can expand funding for medication assisted treatment, community health workers and education. The legislature must pass safe reporting of overdose or opioid problem legislation for individuals who are seeking help to overcome their addiction. Additionally, we should pass stricter penalties for medical providers over-prescribing and abusing their authority to prescribe pharmaceutical opioids.
QUESTION: Do you support a state ban on gun silencers? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes, a gun silencer or suppressor reduces the sound a gun makes when it fires. For individuals to have access to silencers could put our communities more at risk. The dangerous effect of gun silencers outweighs any benefit that an individual may claim for hunting.
QUESTION: Should all gun dealers in Illinois be licensed by the state? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes, we want to dissuade gun dealers from selling weapons illegally. Requiring gun dealers to be licensed allows for the state to regulate the sale of arms and prevent dangerous individuals from obtaining high-powered rifles. Also, we should make it easier for law enforcement to track the origins of weapons recovered from criminal activities.
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 family members feel threatened by another relative, there should be a recourse for temporary removal of the weapons. The petitioning family member should take responsibility for any damage that happens to weapons while being temporarily held. It is the responsibility of government to provide safety and security to all its citizens.
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 healthcare for all Illinoisans. Prior to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), states could only cover childless adults and receive federal Medicaid funds by obtaining a waiver; the ACA expands Medicaid to childless adults with significant federal funding so states do not need waivers for this purpose. We should continue to expand Medicaid and allow every resident to buy into the state’s program.
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: Public higher education in Illinois is in a downward spiral. Enrollments for many institutions have fallen after extensive budget cuts. We need to increase funding to the monetary assistance program (MAP). We need an A plus program wherein students with a certain GPA are given full tuition to any community college in the state. We do not have too many state universities. However, the state universities need to be creative in providing quality programs and experiences to students to encourage high school gradutes to attend college here.
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.
I supported Governor Rauner signing HB 40, allowing state health insurance and Medicaid coverage for abortions.
I support Governor Rauner’s position that we need to reform the criminal justice system and increase job opportunities for former offenders.
I supported Governor Rauner signing SB 1, allowing for evidence-based funding model to support our poorest school districts.
I strongly oppose Governor Rauner’s right to work position.
I strongly oppose Governor Rauner’s efforts to destroy public unions.
I strongly disagree with Governor Rauner’s position on a graduated income tax.