Running for: State Representative - 29th District
Political/civic background: Alderman of Calumet City’s 3rd Ward
Occupation: Partner Attorney at Tillman and Tillman and Assiciates
Education: Thornwood High School - 2004
Illinois State University - 2008 - (Marketing)
DePaul University College of Law - 2014 -(Juris Doctorate)
Campaign website: tillmanforrep.com
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. DeAndre Tillman 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.
As a resident born and raised in the district, I am keenly aware of its needs and my vison to improve my hometown is what lead me to public office. In 2017, I was elected to serve as the 3rd Ward Alderman of Calumet City. Using this platform, I proudly hosted career building workshops, back to school fairs, career fairs, monthly townhall meetings, and a variety of other events aimed at rebuilding trust in government and providing residents with information to relieve financial burdens. Using my network of legal and governmental professionals, I worked to help residents appeal their taxes, establish estate plans, expunge their records, and other projects at no cost.
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.
Studies have demonstrated over the years that the property tax rate in the southland is disproportionately higher than other communities across the state. Combine this with the 29th districts proximity to Indiana and this results in a negative spiral effect – Homeowners move to Indiana, thereby causing the tax burden to shift to residents (increasing taxes), which leads to more homeowners leaving. As someone born and raised in the district and returning after law school to purchase my first home, this issue deeply affects me. This issue must be addressed on the State level by investing in projects in the Southland to attract more businesses which would ease the tax burden of homeowners. I also support special tax incentives for districts boarding Indiana that would help ease the undue burden of doing business in the area. We must also address the way Tax Increment Financing Districts (TIFs) are administered as they have the potential to be misused thereby taking money from School Districts and other governmental bodies. I support legislation aimed at creating greater accountability when administering TIFs to ensure that TIFs are not automatically grandfathered once they expire.
Studies have demonstrated that there is a direct correlation between the lack of transit in low income communities and wealth inequality among races. Transportation is the key to economic opportunity in my district. Specifically, I would commitment to working with the CTA on the Red Line Extension and the development of a third airport. Extending the CTA’s Red Line to 130th would provide more access to jobs for individuals in my district. The time and cost savings from the ability to take the train from my district to jobs as far as Evanston without the need to transfer trains is invaluable.
Another major issue facing the southland is crime. I believe that a lack of opportunity, inadequate funding for police at the municipal level, educational barriers, insufficient mental health programs, and the need for common sense gun control measures all play a factor in making our neighborhoods unsafe. Measures to make our neighborhoods safer can be achieved by: (1) Expanding programs to allow better access to mental health facilities, (2) Increasing school funding while directing those dollars to student-based needs and not administration-based needs, and (3) Supporting programs aimed at helping individuals with a criminal background reenter society thereby reducing recidivism.
What are your other top legislative priorities?
The number one issues facing the State is the ballooning pension debt that is a major strain on our budget. Pension reform is an unfortunate but necessary measure that the State must take in order to ensure a better budget for future generations. In achieving this, it is vital to not alter what is existing – we cannot retroactively retool what hardworking families earned and paid into. What we must do is bring all parties to the negotiating table and create a realist plan to rework future contracts. Illinois has the lowest credit rating in the nation and that will never change if we do not address the obvious.
What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.
I support Gov. Pritzker’s plan of a graduated income tax – equal is not equitable. Many affluent induvial and corporations do not pay their fair share. The important aspect of this plan is how the state plans to spend the revenue if the measure passes. While it is important to satisfy our pension debt, it is equally important to better fund education, health care, and social services.
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?
I believe in a balanced approach to the budget. We cannot talk about pension reform without talking about concomitant cost saving measures and revenue generation. I would support an audit of the 40-billion-dollar budget to figure out where we can cut spending. Upon being elected as Alderman, the town I serve was faced with a budget deficit of 2 million dollars in 2017-2018. The city council and I, worked together to create new forms of revenue, implemented an attrition program, and controlled spending to bring the municipality back into the black the following year. As State Representative, I plan to bring this same level of discipline to Springfield.
Additionally, the State currently has almost 7,000 units of government which is the highest in the nation by far. I would support measures aimed at reducing this number to be more inline with the national average for a state of our size and population.
Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?
Generally, I do not support any new tax in our State since Illinois is one of the most taxed States in the nation. I would exhaust all other measures of fixing our budget before implementing a new tax. However, following the logic of my support for a progressive tax, I do support making the wealthiest pay more taxes, if necessary.
What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?
I strongly believe that no child should lack educational resources simply because their parents lack financial resources. Pursuant to Illinois Constitution Article X Section 1: “The State has the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education”, yet this is not the case. Currently, the State fund approximately 25% of the overall cost of education. We currently have a state promulgated system (funding based on property taxes) which leads to inequities across our State. The most crucial aspect of increasing educational funding is by controlling the direction of the funds so that it may benefit students and teachers and not administration costs. I generally support the idea of reallocating burdensome administrative costs and redirecting them to student related needs. These needs include things such as (1) smaller class sizes, (2) better STEM programs, and (3) more support staff at schools with lower scores.
Our children need to be competitive in a global setting regardless of their financial circumstances. However, financial solutions alone will not help, we need to come up with innovative ways to approach child development. Studies suggest that early preschool and head start programs are helpful to the development of children. These programs are not only for the minor but also for parents at the community college level. I would support legislation aimed providing these programs to families everywhere, especially in disenfranchised communities.
As the son of two School Board members and a product of the 29th District’s public education system, I understand the importance of creating opportunities and resources for the youth and how this will benefit us all in the future.
Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?
Illinois currently has one of the most restrictive gun policies in the nation. I strongly believe the calamity of gun violence in our State can be attributed to a lack of mental health and trauma resources. I support the State providing more funding for mental health resources and a trauma center located in the Southland.
In addition, as it relates to gun control, I support, (1) further attempt at limiting straw purchases, and (2) allowing immediate family members to petition the Courts to temporarily remove guns from people in a crisis.
I also support the measures mentioned in my previous answers as it relates to public safety.
Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.
I often hear, “there is no need for term limits because elections serve as term limits” and I reject this argument. I support voter approved term limits. Term limits serve as a check on abuse of power and corruption that this State struggles to control.
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?
As a law student, I studied this subject extensively. Anecdote assurances of fairness in redistricting maps are insufficient. I believe we need independent, non-partisan, and fair redistricting that ends map manipulation. Gerrymandering is unpalatable and operates to disenfranchise voters of a specific subset, this is unacceptable. I would be open to migrating from our current system to a grid based or independent based system.
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?
Transparency in government is important therefore I support the recent amendment to the Lobbyist Registration Act. I believe further discussions with stakeholders in the community should be held to determine the next ethics reform, if any.
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?
It has been often said from major corporations that it’s not if they will be hacked, it’s when will they be hacked. Cyber hacks have been a part of American culture rather its in the board room or at home in our living room. Many individuals with computers at home or at the library are more susceptible to be hacked due to a lack of financial resources and the inability to remain current with the latest security. I support legislation aimed at full disclosure of these issues that are clear and concise that the average person can understand. I will also support legislation that will increase the penalty when a company breach these duties. As a member of the general assembly I wish to hold many hearings on this issue in an effort to be proactive as possible as technology is forever evolving around us.
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?
Currently over 16,000 students are leaving Illinois to attend out of state universities; this is among the highest in the nation, second only to California. I support progressive measures of other states that are adopting scholarship programs to increase enrollment and accessibility.
Under this program I would propose “promise programs” that offer college students two years of free tuition at participating state community colleges or other associate-degree programs and vocational schools. This plan would supplement the tuition costs after financial aid and grants are applied.
What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?
I strongly believe that concerns related to global warming are real and will generally support legislation aimed at protecting the environment. This includes protecting the funding for the Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) program. As an Alderman, I saw firsthand how funds from OSLAD could help reshape a community.
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.
Barack Obama. Obama transcendent culture and politics in a tangible way that felt real to me. I have read multiple books and listened to many podcasts related to his journey; and though many of the stories repeat themselves, I remain inspired as if it was my first time learning it. Obama, an attorney, first ran for an Illinois State seat at the age of 34. Similar to Obama, I am an Attorney seeking an Illinois State seat at the age of 33.
What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
The greatest show ever written is HBO series “The Wire”. This is the first and only complete series I’ve purchased and own. This show is intelligently written and draws many parallels to life through the story of Baltimore’s crime scene. I believe the show has an accurate exploration of society and politics, commingled with a realistic portrayal of urban life.