The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the nominees for Illinois Senate a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois and their districts.
Democrat Tom Cullerton, running against Republican Seth Lewis in the 23rd district, did not come into the Sun-Times for an interview, but he submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.
Cullerton: Government Consolidation, reducing the property tax burden on residents of the 23rd District, increase state funding for education, improving care of our veterans, expanding our resources for care of the developmentally disabled, shoring up our crumbling infrastructure.
Please list three concerns that are highly specific to your district, such as a project that should be undertaken or a state policy related to some local issue that must be changed.
- Increase state funding for education so we can start to lessen the burden of utilizing local property taxes and still keep DuPage schools as the best in the State of Illinois.
- A wholesale overhaul needs to be done concerning the PUNS(Prioritization for Urgency of Needs) list and how we care for our disabled population. DHFS needs to actually address the needs and concerns of our disabled and their families. It is unacceptable that the 6th largest state in the country ranks in the bottom with how we care for our disabled community.
- Higher education needs to be a priority to keep our best and brightest here in Illinois. Illinois Universities should be packed with kids from the great schools of the 23rd District.
Who is Tom Cullerton?
His legislative District:
- 23rd Senate
His political/civic background:
- State Senate 2013-present
- Villa Park Village President 2009-2013
- Villa Park Trustee 2005-2009
- State Senator, 23rd District
What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?
Illinois is now the sixth-most populated state, down from No. 5, after 33,703 people moved out between July 2016 and July 2017. What must the Legislature do to make Illinois a more desirable place to live?
- We need to be able to lower property taxes in Illinois.
- We need to push for the creation of more small businesses and entrepreneurs. My Senate bill, which has been signed into law, SB867 encourages small business ownership by lowering the fees for Limited Liability Companies, or LLCs. This will help create more small businesses in Illinois, which is the largest sector of growth in the national economy.
- We need to increase technical skills in our workforce. Manufacturing jobs are at a premium. Skilled labor is severely understaffed. We need to emphasize that these are good paying jobs and train folks to take advantage of this movement.
In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?
Cullerton:I am not taking the General Assembly Pension. First thing we need to do is make it so that the Assembly does not take pensions. I am proud to say that since being in office I have consistently made sure we make our full pension payment every year. We cannot go back to the days of borrowing to make payments or skipping pension payments.
From 2000 to 2016, the number of Illinois residents who enrolled as college freshmen outside the state increased by 73% (20,507 to 35,445). Why are so many more Illinois residents going to college elsewhere? What should be done to encourage more of them to go to school here?
Cullerton:This is not a small task. I passed a law already making AP tests scores meet college credit requirements here in Illinois. This should allow more students the ability to get Illinois college credit before they even pay for their first course. We need to bring down the cost of in state tuition and promote our Universities. Holding our Universities hostage through the Governor’s self inflicted budget crisis and starving our Universities of needed funding created a catastrophe.
What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?
Cullerton:Right now the first issue needed to be addressed is the processing of crime data. It takes almost a year to process crime data. The fact the Governor prioritizes pet projects from legislators and not funding the ISP crime lab to turn gun violence crime data around quicker is ridiculous.
On-demand scheduling software now helps large retail companies determine how many staff members they will need on a day-to-day or even hour-to-hour basis. The downside is that employees may not receive their work schedules until the last minute. Oregon and a number of cities have responded by adopting “fair scheduling” laws. Would it be appropriate for the Illinois Legislature to pass a “fair scheduling” law? Please explain. What would such a law look like?
Cullerton:I would have to take a look at legislation, best practices, data points and other models before making any decision on this subject.
Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
Cullerton:Michigan has marijuana legalization as a referendum question this year. If Illinois were to pass this law we need to make sure we can test for driver impairment, an age restriction similar to alcohol and a taxation system that would help the state pay down it’s liabilities.
Opioid overdoses and fatalities continue to rise in number. In Illinois in 2017, there were 13,395 opioid overdoses, including 2,110 deaths. What should the Legislature do, if anything, about this?
Cullerton:I voted to override the Governor’s veto on HB1 which expanded the narcan program and allowed more people to seek treatment for opioid addiction. Sadly our Governor has buried his head in the sand when it has come to dealing with this crisis. We have had to constantly pass laws even over his objections.
The Future Energy Jobs Act, passed in 2016, is generating job growth in renewable energy and improving energy efficiency. Do you agree or disagree with the objectives and substance of the Act? What more — or less — should be done?
What would you do to ensure the long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid program? What is your view on managed care for Medicaid beneficiaries?
Cullerton:As I stated earlier we need a full overhaul of all our agencies and to move towards adopting best practices from other states and make sure we fund our agencies correctly. The Governor’s budget stalemate increased costs unnecessarily and hurt our most vulnerable. His goal of short term pain was a recipe for disaster and has hurt more residents than it could have ever helped.
Underfunding at the Department of Corrections has led to troubling findings by the auditor general that many inmates don’t receive services or opportunities for work while incarcerated. Is this a legitimate concern? What should the Legislature do?
Cullerton:The underfunding at the Department of Corrections has led to a high rate of recidivism amongst released inmates. We need to make sure that when an inmate is released, they can become a productive member of society instead of being likely to end up back in jail.
Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?
Cullerton: (No response)
Ahead of the historic 2018 elections, the Sun-Times is teaming up weekly with the Better Government Association, in print and online, to fact-check the truthfulness of the candidates. You can find all ofthe PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported togetherhere.