Mohammad ‘Mo’ Iqbal, Illinois House 65th District Democratic candidate profile
His top priorities include lower property taxes, road improvements in the district and local government consolidation.
Mohammad “Mo” Iqbal
Running for:Representative in General Assembly - HD 065
Political/civic background:Kane County Board Member, 2018-Present
Commissioner, Kane County Forest Preserve District
Chair, Kane County Complete Count Commission for Census 2020
Board Member – Gail Borden Public Library Foundation (2010 - 2015)
Commissioner – City of Elgin Human Relations Commission (2007 - 2012)
Commissioner – City of Elgin Image Advisory Commission (2004 – 2007)
Board Member – Eagle Heights Residents Association (2008 - 2017)
Occupation:Lawyer and Civil Engineer - self employed
Education: J. D. – NIU, College of Law
L. L. M. – UIC, The John Marshall Law School
M.B.A. – The University of Chicago
D. Sc. – Civil Engineering – Washington University at St. Louis
Campaign website: moiqbal.us
Facebook: Mohammad Iqbal
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent candidates 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 and their districts. Mohammad “Mo” Iqbal submitted the following responses:
Please tell us about your civic work in the last two years, whether it’s legislation you have sponsored or work you have done in other ways to improve your community.
- Civic work in the last two years at the Kane County Board:
Raised issue whether board members, working part-time, should give themselves full health and dental insurance perk.
Sponsored advisory questions for November 2020 ballot in Kane County:
Should the people of Kane County pay for the Board members’ full health and dental insurance?
- Should numbers of the Kane County Board districts be consolidated from 24 to 18
- Sponsored Responsible Bidders Act
- Sponsored Lobbyists Registration Ordinance
Always doing pro bono work for the needy and non-profits.
Please list three concerns that are specific to your district, such as a project that should be undertaken or a state policy related to an important local issue that should be revised.
1. Property Taxes: The property taxes are too high and rising.
2. Road Improvements: The county is growing. New houses are being built. However, infrastructure is deficient and cannot service the traffic. Several roadways are only two-lane wide. The result is that residents can make only right turns as making left turn is unsafe at certain intersections. It causes severe egress delays and long detours when the residents are going to work in the morning. Local governmental bodies need state grant money to improve the infrastructure.
3. Consolidate Local Governmental bodies: There are numerous local governmental taxing bodies (such as county, township, township road district, municipality, school district, community college, library, park district, forest preserve, fire department, water reclamation district, and so on). Each taxing body has its own levy and a pension tax. Reportedly, there are more than 8,500 local government units in Illinois. with 1,428 of those are townships. These are the closest levels of government to residents, required to provide general assistance to the poor, administer property assessments and maintain roads. It is argued that that some township road districts are “tax-eating amateurs” who are seeking “to protect their jobs, their political patronage and their nepotism.” Currently, McHenry County’s has a question on the March 2020 ballot to dissolve a local district. I support consolidating the local governmental bodies to reduce burden on the property owners and awaiting how McHenry County’s experiment turns out.
What are your other top legislative priorities?
1. State and Local Pensions: The state is in a financial crisis. According to the Bloomberg report, the pension, health insurance benefits and pension bond debt for state and local government employees is over $200B, and rising. The high property tax is direct consequence of the neglect and intransigence the state has suffered in the past fifty years. Pension underfunding has become so huge that, if we do not solve it, the state would soon be insolvent which we cannot afford. Therefore, we need to act now and be persistent. That is why I am running for a seat in the general assembly.
2. Improve Ethics Act – Current ethics ordinance is too weak. It needs to be strengthened.
3. Strengthen Lobbyists Registration Act – Recent amendment is a positive improvement, however, we need not stop here and strengthen the Act further.
4. Improve rules governing the workings of non-home rule communities – The state legislature can and should do more in improving the working of the local government bodies like county boards by taking discretionary perks out of county board members’ hands to minimize self-dealing by politicians and to help the taxpayers.
- Board members work part-time, but give themselves full health and dental insurance benefits;
- The number of board member for counties over ¾ Million population is limited by statute to 18; however, numerous counties with less populations are permitted to have and they have more board members than 18.
5. Reduce the number of elected officials. According to former senator Adlai Stevenson, more elected officials there are, more election money is involved. And, money brings in influence peddling and corruption.
What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.
The “Fair Tax” amendment has been long overdue. A flat tax is regressive because it hits poorer constituents harder than wealthier ones. The progressive income tax amendment is a structural change to our antiquated taxing policies. The federal government has had a progressive income tax for over a century. Most states that have a state income tax have a progressive tax. Our neighboring states of Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri are good examples.
Illinois continues to struggle financially, with a backlog of unpaid bills that tops $6 billion. In addition to a progressive state income tax — or in lieu of such a tax — what should the state do to pay its bills, meet its pension obligations and fund core services such as higher education?
The state is in financial crisis. Property taxes are high. Pension issue is out of control. Politicians work for themselves, some getting caught in quid pro quo and bribery schemes. There is an exodus of population with thousands leaving the state every year. We cannot kick the can any longer. The state governmental policies have failed us. It is time to face the crisis and solve it.
The obligations related to the pension system include:
- State pensions
- State pension benefit bonds
- State retirees’ health benefits
- Local pensions
- Local pensions benefit bonds
- Local retirees’ health benefits
The Illinois Supreme court 2015 decision requires that the state should honor its obligations. The employees covered by the decision should be paid what they were promised. The same way Tier II employees should adhere to their bargain. The Tier III plan - a hybrid plan offers pointers on how to structure the new plan for future services. Going forward, all option should be on the table. We need a solution that all parties agree.
The root cause of the state debt is state’s pension and retirees’ health benefit underfunding. The total debt exceeds $200B. So far, the solution has been to raise taxes to increase revenue. This would not work. Gov. Pritzker’s plan to “Revitalize the Illinois Economy and Build the Workforce of the Future” is the first step towards the solution. The plan acknowledges that the state’s economy has seen years of neglect and intransigence and it vows to create “an economy in Illinois that works for everyone”. However, the plan omits concrete steps to take and does not mention that we need to be persistent in our efforts and that we need to leave no stone unturned to put Illinois back on the right track. We need a solution that the people can afford so that we have a clear way out of the crisis with all parties on the table. That is why I am running to serve in the Illinois general assembly.
Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?
No. The retirees and senior citizens have paid taxes all along and deserve to keep their retirement money, whether it is from a pension plan or a social security check. The withdrawals from 401(k) retirement accounts are taxed as ordinary income on both federal and state returns and that is fair.
What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?
No Child Left Behind program reportedly promised to improve learning, but instead it resulted in over-testing, drastically reduced instructional time, and assessment use to rank, sort and punish schools, particularly schools serving students from communities of poverty, students with disabilities, and students learning to speak English as second language. President Obama signed Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015 which reportedly opens the door to states to provide for additional flexibility and shared accountability. I support school districts and educators to adjust to different accountability expectations. Second, I support data privacy protections for students and teachers.
Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?
I support the 2nd amendment; however reasonable control is needed to keep the guns out of the hands of individuals having criminal history and/or those with mental health issues.
Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.
The U.S. Constitution limits the terms of our president to two terms, this means 8 years maximum. I believe that a period of eight (8) years should be the maximum for all elected officials in Illinois, whether they are serving in Springfield or locally. This would end perpetual campaigning and help drain the swamp.
Everybody says gerrymandering is bad, but the party in power in every state — Democrats in Illinois — resist doing anything about it. Or do we have that wrong? What should be done?
Democracy is fragile. It depends on informed citizenry and fair elections. For fair elections, the districts should be drawn by a non-partisan commission, avoiding gerrymandering. Therefore, we need a fair map amendment that should be approved by Illinois voters. Fairly-drawn districts can lead to real competition for elected offices of representatives, senators, and county board members.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago is investigating possible official corruption by state and local officials. This prompted the Legislature to pass an ethics reform measure to amend the Lobbyist Registration Act (SB 1639). It was signed into law in December. What’s your take on this and what more should be done?
Corruption, influence peddling and self-dealing are the problems that cut across the political spectrum. The fact that it is rampant in Illinois is a problem. There have been many arrests, FBI raids, indictments and resignations that have prompted the amendment to the Lobbyists Registration Act. The new law requires registered lobbyists to disclose additional Information and requires that Illinois Secretary of State create a publicly accessible database of disclosure forms from lobbyists and state officials. Both are positive steps, but we cannot stop here. Additional bills are needed to improve transparency and ethical standards. We need to close the revolving door. Illinois is one of only seven (7) states that have no restrictions on “revolving door” lobbying. A legislator in Illinois can resign today and start work as a paid lobbyist tomorrow. And many do, landing on lucrative jobs and working on behalf of lobbying campaigns for special interests. We want government to work for us – the people. Therefore, the law should require a cooling off period and slow the revolving door. During this period, former officials should not be allowed to conduct any lobbying for compensation. In Iowa, the cooling off period is two year and in Florida, it is six years.
When people use the internet and wireless devices, companies collect data about us. Oftentimes, the information is sold to other companies, which can use it to track our movements or invade our privacy in other ways. When companies share this data, we also face a greater risk of identity theft. What should the Legislature do, if anything?
The goal is to make the Internet more privacy-friendly and more secure. However, it is complicated. At present, a fight is brewing that has significant implications for the privacy and security of all Internet users. The fight has already pitted search giant Google and Cloudflare against American telecommunications companies. The issue concerns the control over data, centralized power, and who should bear privacy risks. It involves the nuts and bolts of the Internet and terms such as DNS, DNS resolver, private DNS, diversity of DNS resolver, ISP, encryption, surveillance, spying, etc. There are several options being considered to resolve the issue. I agree with ACLU’s approach that everyone deserves to be able to use the Internet without being subject to mass surveillance.
The number of Illinois public high school graduates who enroll in out-of-state universities continues to climb. What can Illinois do to make its state universities more attractive to Illinois high school students?
Higher education in Illinois has suffered due to neglect and intransigencies in recent years along with the budget uncertainties. According to the figures released by the Illinois Board of Higher Education, 48.4 percent of Illinois public high school graduates enrolled in four-year universities in 2017 attended out-of-state institutions. This figure has reportedly climbed over the past two decades. For example, in 2002, only 29.3 percent of Illinois high school graduates went to out-of-state, four-year colleges. The exodus is being blamed on inadequate tax system and the lack of funding that has created a student debt crisis. The solution is for state to demonstrate financial discipline and stability. The state needs to show to Illinois grads and their parents that Illinois colleges are more affordable and that Illinois provides appealing opportunities after graduation.
What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?
Illinois is blessed with abundance of natural resources – clean water, clean air, fertile land and central location in the country. As a commissioner of the Kane County Forest Preserve District, I strive to preserve as much open space in the County as sustainable. In addition, we have plenty of sunshine in Illinois. Installing solar panels and generating solar energy should be considered a part of all new construction. Adding solar panel system to existing buildings should be encouraged, with tax incentives and making the permitting process more people-friendly.
What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain.
Late senator Paul Simon served Illinois very well and I admire his service to our country. Former Senator Adlai Stevenson III, now 89, is a great Illinoisan. His recent article “Our political system urgently needs an Overhaul. Start with 7 steps”, is profound. It provides a good road map for Illinois as the state faces the financial and ethical crises.
What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
My wife and I travel frequently. Travelling teaches me not only about the county I visit but also the democracy at home. The Channel 11’s Rick Steve produced some great travel documentaries over the years. Several web-based travel documentaries are also available. I enjoy watching them.