On Feb. 15, Justin Slaughter appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked him why he’s running for the Illinois House of Representatives in the 27th District:
My name is Justin Slaughter. I’ve served as the Illinois State Representative of the 27th District since January of 2017. I’ve been blessed to immerse my entire career into government, public policy and politics. I was the chief of staff for State Senator Kwame Raoul. From there I went on to be a policy adviser for our last democratic governor, Governor Pat Quinn and from there I went into working for a state agency. I was the deputy director of programs for the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice. From there, working for the state for about eight years straight, I went over to Cook County. I was chief of staff, or district director if you will, for Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore. And then after that, I worked in Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s administration for a couple years. Both for the Bureau of Administration as well as a special assistant with the secretary to the board’s office.
Well, I have a few priorities both in general for the office as well as policy priorities. For the office, in general, there are three things I want to focus on. Which is connecting my constituents with vital programs, services and initiatives and resources. Many folks don’t know who their state rep is or who their state senator is and so, therefore, don’t know the very impactful effect of programs and services that the state has and so I want to do that. I want to make sure I connect folks in that regard. Secondly, I want to make sure I am connecting and working with local officials, aldermen, county officials as well as our congressmen. It takes a team effort and a collaborative effort to do that. And lastly, I want to engage people in the government and political process in regards to allowing them to be part of the answer to a lot of the challenges and issues that are facing us today.
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. Justin Slaughter 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.
- There has been a lot of work to get guns off our streets and keep our families safe. Our community has been, and continues to be, plagued by consistent gun crimes and violence. In order to reduce crime and violence, I’m sponsoring Senate Bill 1657, the Gun Dealer Licensing Act, that will allow the state of Illinois to require gun dealers to be licensed with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Responsibility (IDFPR) and create more reporting requirements on stolen firearms from gun stores so we can have up-to-date information on what guns have been stolen or are missing.
- The state and City of Chicago need to do more to invest in our South Side communities. We need good-paying jobs that lead to stable careers for people in our communities.
- Donald Trump and Bruce Rauner are trying to eliminate and strip millions from basic access to healthcare. Access to affordable health coverage is something the people I represent deserve and need. I supported House Bill 2959, which requires insurance companies in Illinois to cover people who suffer from pre-existing conditions and to offer people peace of mind that they do not have to fear losing their coverage.
- The recent education overhaul bill that became law last year was something that was decades in the making. Senate Bill 1947 is going to bring CPS an additional $466 million from the state to relieve the huge burdens my residents face each year. Students of color have not received a fair shot at educational opportunities that the richest school districts in Illinois have for the last two decades and the new formula will start to level the playing field for every student.
- I think it is also important to highlight that the CPS school board is an unelected one. This needs to change, and that is why I supported House Bill 1774 to create an elected school board for CPS. Every other school district in Illinois is elected by the voters and therefore answer to its community. Chicago families deserve the same representation and accountability.
- A progressive tax would mean a tax cut for working and middle-class families. To bring more investment from the state into local projects and ease the tax burden on middle-class families, the wealthiest in Illinois, like Bruce Rauner and Ken Griffin need to start paying their fair share. Our flat income tax squeezes working and middle-class families out of their money that they worked hard to earn, while the richest save massive amounts of money.
Justin Q. Slaughter
Legislative District: 27th
Political/civic background: State Representative since 2017
Occupation: State Representative
Campaign website: www.facebook.com/JustinForRep/
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.
- Our schools will always need greater support from the state to ensure a fair and just education for all students.
- Public Safety: I want to make sure guns are kept off the streets and do not fall into the wrong hands.
- Criminal Justice Reform
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: Everyone invested in a pension needs to be represented when dealing with this huge issue. A cuts-only approach is the wrong way to go, and that only hurts the people who put in their time to earn something later. I also want to highlight my support for House Bill 4045, which would establish a 3rd Tier system for new workers and pave the way for the state to reduce costs.
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: No one working full-time should live in poverty. I supported Senate Bill 81, which would have gradually increased the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. Our working and middle-class families need to be lifted up so they can stimulate the economy and create local jobs.
QUESTION: Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes. From a criminal justice point of view, people of color for too long have been unfairly targeted by law enforcement and faced much stricter and damning consequences than others. Legalizing recreational use would go a long way to correcting a decades-old injustice and improve police and community relationships over time.
QUESTION: Would you support more casinos in Illinois, including in Chicago. What about racinos? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes. This is an opportunity to bring in more revenue that would not have to result in a tax hike on middle class families.
Bookmark the Sun-Times 2018 Illinois Primary Voting Guide
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: I have supported numerous property tax freeze proposals and met the governor more than halfway on his demands for a property tax freeze in exchange for his cooperation on the budget. However, the proposals that I’ve sponsored would have begin the process to cut them. House Bill 156 would have increased the senior and general homestead exemptions, allowing homeowners to pay less on their real estate taxes. I also supported Senate Bill 473, which mandated the same stipulations and is now law. Cook County residents will see a freeze to reduction coming their way.
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 last year to finally end Illinois’ broken and unfair education system. The work never ends to reach a truly fair and equitable system, but more money must come from the state. This is another argument for a progressive income tax. Bringing in new revenue from the wealthiest in Illinois will allow the state to invest in the programs that will create the taxpayers of the future who will give back to their communities.
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: There’s an unfortunate stigma attached to people who are suffering from addiction. Illinois can and should do more to expand treatment to those who need it. Had Illinois not suffered through Rauner’s near 3-year manufactured budget crisis, more people would have received the treatment they need.
The Legislature can do more to reduce this problem by investing in the communities that have suffered from drugs and violence. Increasing the minimum wage, extending the earned income tax credit and creating more job opportunities through Senate Bill 81 and House Bill 160 would have helped significantly in preventing opioid use and abuse.
QUESTION: Do you support a state ban on gun silencers? Please explain.
ANSWER: Absolutely. A ban is in place now that should stay law indefinitely. I will not support any proposals that attempt to repeal the ban.
QUESTION: Should all gun dealers in Illinois be licensed by the state? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes. That is why I’m sponsoring Senate Bill 1657, the Gun Dealer Licensing Act, that would not only create more processing requirements for gun dealers, but mandate that they be licensed with the IDFPR. This is a public safety issue. We have to ensure that guns do not fall into the wrong hands and ensure that commonsense, reasonable safeguards are in place.
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. I am sponsoring House Bill 2354 to ensure the safety and well-being of every family and every child. This is another commonsense measure that is unfortunately being opposed by the extreme agendas of right-wing politicians.
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 support reversing Governor Bruce Rauner’s overhaul that will result in a loss of health care coverage, something the governor wants desperately. The state of Iowa has implemented a similar program and nearly a third of their insurers have abandoned the program.
I’d like to see expansion under the Affordable Care Act, but a better option would be to expand healthcare to all as a right, and not something that will bankrupt them financially.
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: More state investment into our world-class universities would be a good start so we can begin to lower tuition costs for those seeking to attend college. What’s more is that Illinois needs to providing students the ability to pay back their loans in the best way they can. Under Senate Bill 1351, which I helped pass, the Illinois Attorney General’s office will be authorized to provide information to students on the efficient ways they can pay back their loans while ensuring greedy loan-servicers cannot scam newer students into contractual agreements that will harm their futures.
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.
- Criminal Justice Reform
- Education Reform
- Senate Bill 1947 was a bipartisan effort that took years of negotiating, and he did ultimately sign it into law.
- Property Tax Relief
- Rauner was right to call for relief here, but he missed no opportunity to withdraw his, and House GOP members’, support for numerous proposals that would have gone far beyond what Rauner demanded. He wanted a freeze, and I gave him cuts in property taxes time and time again. He said no.
- Blocking opportunities for working families
- Organized labor is the backbone of the middle class. Rauner has made it clear who he wants to win from his near 3-year budget crisis – himself and his ultra-wealthy allies. The protections that organized labor has fought for benefit all working-class people and lift up middle-class families regardless of their union affiliation. We need to do more to protect workers and increase wages, not less.
- Cuts to services for the most vulnerable
- His Good Friday cuts from 2015 speak volumes about who he is willing to punish in order to try to get what he wants. He put the lives of seniors, disabled and children on the line in order to push for his extreme demands that don’t even have enough support from the legislature.
- Trump’s Tax plan (Tax Cuts for the Wealthy)
- He is a clear supporter of Trump’s tax plan because he is going to benefit from it personally. He only spoke out about the idea after the bill was signed into law. He waited too long to denounce Trump’s plan that Rauner knows will hurt the people I represent.