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Illinois House District 21, Democratic Primary

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The questions

All candidates were invited to respond to questionnaires, although not all chose to participate. Click on a candidate's name to see the unedited response to each question.

Biographical information & experience
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    Lozano
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    Tabares
Lozano
Birthdate: 1/21/1976
Occupation: Community Organizer
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Celia Gonzalez Lozano

Education:

I attended Whitney Young High School, after which I attended Northeastern Illinois University where I earned my Bachelor's degree in Community and Youth Organizing. I also completed my Master's degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

President and Executive member of the Independent Political Organization of the 22nd Ward (President since May 2011)
Local School Council member of World Language H.S.
Advisory Council member of the Alivio School-Based Health Clinic at the Little Village Lawndale H.S. Campus
Class of 2011, Leadership Greater Chicago

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

No

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

Yes, 2 Contracts with Commissioner Garcia at the county.

Tabares
Birthdate: 1/7/1979
Occupation: Former Managing Editor at Extra Bilingual Newspaper
Marital status: Single
Spouse:

Education:

I have a bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism from Colombia College, Chicago.

Civic, professional, fraternal or other affiliations:

100 Club of Chicago
Association of Women Journalists
Metropolitan Leadership Institute

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

No.

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government.

None.

Campaign information
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    Lozano
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Lozano

Campaign headquarters: 2500 S. St. Louis 2nd Floor
Website: www.rudylozanoforstaterep.com
Campaign manager: Celina Villanueva
Campaign budget: Estimated Campaign Budget: $150,000
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
SEIU Healthcare IL IN PAC: $5000
Lisa Lee: $2000
Matthew Katz: $1500
Harold Baron: $1000
Chicago Teachers Union PAC: $1000

Tabares

Campaign headquarters: 6950 W. Archer Ave. Unit 2 Chicago, IL 60638
Website: www.tabares2012.com
Campaign manager: Sean Murray
Campaign budget: $250,000
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed.
D'Escoto Inc. --$7,500
Reflection Window -- $5,000
Pedro Cervantes -- $4,000
Ghafari Associates -- $2,500
Juan Gaytan Jr. -- $1,500

What are your top priorities for your district?
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    Lozano
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    Tabares
Lozano

As a life-long resident of Little Village, I will work to improve the lives of everyone in the district. My priorities will be job creation and training, pubic and community safety, and improving our schools for future generations.

Jobs: I have worked on job training and job creation programs for over a decade, training and placing residents in growing industries including green jobs. As State Representative, I will help improve our public schools and our city college system to ensure students are learning to do more than pass tests, but excel in life. I will support job training and employment programs for youth and adults. I will build on model programs like the Carreras en Salud—to train and place workers into health field jobs—to work with high-road employers in growth sectors, including health and green industries, to invest in and help create effective education and training programs to develop a pipeline from Chicago's education system directly into jobs and careers. And I will fight to ensure the 21st House district gets its fair share of state and federal funds—including those from Obama's new American Jobs Act. I will work with contractors and unions to ensure safe and fair working conditions and support local hiring agreements to ensure the work in our district, stays in our district.

Public Safety: Violence and crime affect every aspect of our communities. I believe strong communities are safer communities. To truly reduce crime, we must address the root causes, not just the symptoms, of violence and crime. To do this, we need a comprehensive approach to public safety that includes law enforcement and community development. While budgets are tight, we must continue to invest in public safety to ensure our police are effectively trained to work with diverse communities and to reduce violence in high crime areas. I will increase investment in evidence-based street level intervention programs and expand youth intervention and support programs that work with high-risk populations at the community level to reduce violence. And I will work with state agencies, parole officers, re-entry service providers, non-profit organizations and communities to support our ex-offender population, stabilize our families and increase safety in our district and across the state.
Education: I have worked in schools and with youth for decades. As a high school teacher and counselor, I have seen the challenges families face in the district. I have also seen the power of students, teachers and parents working together. As the father of two young daughters, I believe in investing in early education as a crucial point of learning development. Working in schools with low income students, I have also seen the inequities. I believe all children should have access to a quality education. As State Representative, I will work to make Illinois school funding more equitable and that students—regardless of their language and learning challenges and needs—have access to quality counseling, information, and programs to ensure they excel.

Tabares

My top priorities for the district include pushing for more jobs through fostering small business growth, working to increase public safety for our residents, as well as pushing for better investments in education for our children.

What is your top priority for the state?
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    Lozano
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Lozano

Jobs. Being able to work and contribute to your community is crucial. This is important economically to support your family, but also as an individual to live with dignity and respect. I believe the state has a role in preparing Illinoisans for better jobs, as well as creating jobs. In particular, I believe federal funds coming from the American Jobs Act with state and local funds to invest in much needed infrastructure to rebuild our communities' transportation, roads and buildings. This will put thousands of Illinoisans to work in good paying jobs, as well as support business, revitalize our communities, and make the state more livable and sustainable.

Tabares

We need to make better investments in our infrastructure and education. If we make the right investments now, we will be able to provide more for the opportunities for our residents in the future.

For incumbents, please list your accomplishments. For challengers, what unique strengths would you bring to the job of state lawmaker?
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    Lozano
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Lozano

I am an educator, community organizer and advocate, not a politician. I have lived in and worked for the communities in this district my whole life. I know the issues people in my district face, because I am one of them. I talk to residents every day—before and through my campaign—not only to identify problems, but to discuss and implement solutions. I have helped bring about a new high school to the area, I have supported hundreds of first-generation college students to pursue higher education, and I have helped train workers to get certified in green jobs. I believe that as State Representative, I can do more for my community, district and state.

Tabares

Did not respond

The state public employee pension system is severely underfunded and paying down the debt threatens to crowd out spending on core state services. Do you support reducing pension benefits not yet earned through a bill like SB512, which offers state workers three options for earning future pension benefits. Should police officers and firefighters be included in a reduced pension system?
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    Lozano
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Lozano

Illinois public employee pension system is suffering from decades of neglect from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. In fact, according to the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, the single greatest reason for the increase in unfunded liabilities in Illinois' pension systems is the state's failure to make appropriate employer contributions over time. This problem must be addressed to ensure the state's fiscal situation long-term, while ensuring those who have dedicated their lives to working for the state are able to retire with dignity.

While I believe the current pension system must be changed, I would not have supported SB 512. While I believe that a tiered pension system is part of the solution, I do not believe in cutting benefits for current employees. I also believe that there should be one set of rules for everyone in the system. SB 512 proposed different rules within the system including different vesting rates for legislators than state employees. I do not believe this is fair. I believe that everyone in the system should meet the same criteria and follow the same rules to receive their benefits.

Tabares

The issue of pensions is extremely important and I plan to look more into the issue. I believe we need to protect the pensions of our retirees and those who put their lives on the line to protect our safety, like police officers and firefighters.

If you don't support a bill like SB512, how would you deal with the state's unfunded pension liability?
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    Lozano
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Lozano

I believe in reforming our pension system. I do not agree with doing it the way SB 512 proposed. I would support a tiered pension system that protects the defined benefits of current state employees. I would also support a system that treats everyone fairly, and does not provide special rules or rates to specific groups. I support changes that will be sustainable over time—that will be fiscally socially responsible. And I would support a participatory policymaking process in which workers and labor are at the table.

In addition to reforming our pension system, I believe that we must be responsible in funding the system. In order to address the state's unfunded pension liability, the General Assembly must move towards appropriating its employer contribution as required by law – an objective that previous General Assemblies have failed to accomplish. While times are tough, this is a responsibility and commitment that the state must uphold. State employees and their families should not bear the brunt of this burden.

Tabares

Did not respond

Do you want the 2 percent point income tax increase to expire in 2014, as planned, or would you like to see the tax increase extended beyond 2014?
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    Lozano
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Lozano

Yes. Although declining revenue during the great recession has placed a tremendous financial burden on the state, Illinois' fiscal infrastructure is largely responsible for the state's inability to generate the revenue necessary to account for the state's financial responsibilities. While some argue that the state has a penchant for spending beyond its means, Illinois ranked 43rd in state spending as a percentage of GDP in FY2008 according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Prior to the tax increase, Illinois' tax system was less equipped to adjust and account for population growth and increases in the cost of goods, services, and employees' compensation.

While increasing the income tax has helped mitigate the state's deficit and improve the tax structure, Illinois must continue taking steps to foster a tax system that is fair and equitable, responsive to population growth, able to adjust to the Consumer and Employee Price Indices, and one that incentivizes desired behavior by firms and residents alike. In order to strive toward that end, Illinois must extend the tax increase beyond 2014. While increasing taxes in never popular, the tax, polling consistently suggests that taxpayers do not support decreases in school funding, healthcare, social services and public safety. As a legislator, I will act responsibly and support fiscal policies that adhere to the principles of sound taxation.

Tabares

I believe the state must work to enact lasting measures which address the problems that were used to justify the tax increase in the first place. Taxing the people of Illinois must be a last resort, and I believe we need to work together to create alternative solutions.

Do you support any changes to the corporate income tax rate? Do you support any other changes to the state's business tax structure?
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    Lozano
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Lozano

During a period in which funding for public schools has decreased, vital human services have been decimated, and the state has billions of dollars in unpaid bills, it was disappointing to witness state leaders pass a series of tax breaks for major corporations. While the package included an increase in the EITC, taxpayers are on the losing end of this deal because the concessions were packaged without a sustainable funding source to cover their expenses. Thus over time, these tax breaks will contribute to growing fiscal pressures to lower state spending elsewhere resulting in job loss among middle class workers. Given that 67% of Illinois' corporations pay no state income tax at all, creating additional loopholes is flawed fiscal policy. As a legislator, I will support fiscal policies that ensure corporations pay their fair share of taxes.

Tabares

Illinois must become a small business friendly state. We need to invest in growing our own jobs in our neighborhoods. By encouraging small business development and growth, we can utilize the talent and the drive of our neighbors to create lasting jobs that will put people back to work.

What should the state government do to create a more favorable business climate and to promote job growth?
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    Lozano
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Lozano

State leaders must look beyond supporting firms in order to create a favorable business climate and invest in tomorrow's workers, today's employees, and strong communities. Illinois is losing its workforce. Far too many students, particularly low-income and minority youth, are failing to successfully transition from public schools to higher education and on to high-wage jobs. Given the state's changing demographics, it is imperative for lawmakers to reinforce their investment in Illinois' greatest asset – its children. As a member of the House, I will fight to restore and expand access to birth-to-five early childhood education - an intervention that has established track record for yielding positive results and long-term savings to the state.

It is also vital that state leaders support today's workers. With high unemployment and job creation tilting away from manufacturing and towards the STEM fields, lawmakers must support workers navigating a changing economy. As an elected official, I will support efforts that increase the availability of education and training programs, financial aid opportunities, and other pathways to good careers in these growing fields.

Lastly, state leaders must continue efforts to build strong communities, and a sustainable state. I believe the state must play an important role in creating jobs. The state should use federal funds from the American Jobs Act, supplemented with targeted state and local funds, to invest in rebuilding our infrastructure and communities. This will put thousands of Illinoisans to work in good paying jobs, as well as support business, revitalize our communities, and make the state more livable and sustainable.

Tabares

Small businesses need encouragement and support from the State of Illinois. We need to work to ensure that those who qualify for small business loans are receiving them, and we need to work to make sure that current small businesses are properly incentivized to hire more employees.

Lay out your plan for paying the billions the state owes schools, universities, human service providers and others. Would you support borrowing to pay down those bills?
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    Lozano
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Lozano

The state has a structural deficit that has been exacerbated by the current economic recession. This is a long-term problem that we cannot cut or borrow ourselves out of. We must make difficult decisions to ensure we can pay our bills short-term, and be fiscally responsible long-term. I believe that maintaining the current increased income tax level, as well as ensuring corporations pay their fair share of taxes will be crucial to ensuring the state has the revenue it needs to sustain itself.

While borrowing money to offset debt is not a sustainable solution to deficit reduction, it makes economic sense to restructure the state's current debt. First, the enacting legislation associated with the income tax increase has already created a pathway to repay lenders wishing to purchase bonds from the state by earmarking a fraction of revenue for that specific purpose. This eases pressure on the part of the state to pay back lenders overtime. Second, restructuring the state's debt would enable the Illinois to save millions of dollars it would otherwise have to pay in penalties linked to late payments owed to human service providers and state vendors. Most importantly, it would save thousands of middle class jobs across the state. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 10,500 state and local government employees were laid off in FY11 and a recent survey of nonprofit human service providers shows that more than 85 organizations let go of 5,400 employees during the past year.

As a member of the General Assembly, I will support efforts to restructure the state's debt on terms that are favorable to the state and taxpayers alike.

Tabares

I believe borrowing must be a last resort. Kicking the can down the road accomplishes nothing in the long-term. I believe the legislature and the leaders need to work together to create a payment plan that protects the vital services to the community that help the people of the State of Illinois, such as universities, schools, and human service providers.

State legislative leaders are trying to give the General Assembly a role in negotiating contracts with state labor unions. What is your opinion of that?
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    Lozano
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Lozano

I do not believe the General Assembly should play a significant active role in negotiating contracts. I believe this will further politicize and polarize an already complicated process. I believe the General Assembly should be able to vote to approve any contracts—not just labor agreements—negotiated by the executive branch that impacts that state budget.

Tabares

I believe that negotiating contracts with organized labor must be carried out in a fashion that is open and fair, to protect the interests of employees and taxpayers alike.

The legislature has tried repeatedly to expand gambling in Illinois. Do you support expanded gambling in Illinois? In what form? Do you support a Chicago casino?
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    Lozano
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Lozano

Gambling expansion is here and has been for a while. I do not see gambling as a solution to the state's budget crisis. The negative social impact of gambling has been well documented. Gambling and gaming is an issue that requires review based on its impact to Illinois residents and not made in the context of the economic crisis. I will make legislative decisions based on what's best for Illinoisans during all times not just during economic hardships.

Tabares

I believe we need to begin making changes that bring more resources to the region. Jobs and economic investments are vital for long-term prosperity and I support legislation that addresses those needs. I agree with Mayor Emanuel that Chicago already has a casino, only that it's located in Hammond, Indiana. We need to take actions that keep those dollars in Illinois to be better used to provide for our residents.

Would you seek any changes to the state ethics and campaign finance laws? Would you support capping what state party leaders can donate during a general election?
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    Lozano
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Lozano

Illinois has been plagued by political corruption for decades. I believe this is a cultural problem that cannot be fully addressed through legislation. I do, however, believe that legislation is needed to provide stricter guidelines, accountability, transparency and punishment for unethical behavior, and I believe that campaign finance reform is part of the solution. I believe that caps on campaign contributions are important. I believe that this should apply to all individuals and bodies, including state party leaders. I also believe that this should apply to an election cycle, not just a calendar year.

Tabares

I believe that campaign finance laws must be stronger to better provide fair and open elections.

Would you back a constitutional amendment to shift from a flat income tax to a progressive income tax system?
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    Lozano
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Lozano

Like 35 other states across the nation, Illinois should adopt some form of a progressive tax structure. Despite increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit, Illinois' tax system is still too regressive and detrimental to the everyday lives of low and moderate-income households. In fact, according to the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, Illinois is the 6th most regressive state in the nation with the poorest 20% of wage earners paying nearly 3 times the effective tax rate of those in the top 1% (13% vs. 4.9%).

Introducing greater progressivity into Illinois' tax system will not only achieve greater fairness, it will also spur economic activity and job creation because low and moderate-income households have a greater marginal propensity to consume than their wealthy counterparts. In other words, as their disposable income increases they are more likely to purchase goods than the highest income households, thereby increasing the demand for goods and services and incentivizing business owners to expand their operations and create more jobs.

Tabares

As I study the issue of Illinois' tax system more closely, I plan on supporting the method that is fairest to our taxpayers.

Do you have a plan to adequately fund schools and reform the property tax system that results in inequities?
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    Lozano
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Lozano

Yes. Illinois has one of the most inequitable and racially disparate school funding systems in the country. The wealthiest school districts in Illinois spend up to $19,000 more per pupil than the poorest school districts. Across the state, 93 percent of Black students and over 60 percent of Latino students attend schools in school districts where poverty exceeds 30 percent. This is not a fair system.

Allocating money to schools through local property taxes is inequitable. It ensures that wealthy students get more funds than poor students—which goes directly against principle of fairness and the right of all children to receive a quality education. I believe that property taxes, along with other taxes including income taxes, can be sources of generating funds for schools, but that these funds should go to a general state school fund and then allocated equitable throughout the state. I also believe that the state's education foundation level should be increased to a level that ensures all children in the state have the resources and supports to receive a quality education.

Tabares

School funding for capitol improvements is extremely important to the 21st District. I plan on working with all levels of government, including local, county, state, and federal authorities to enact a fair and equitable funding solution that does away with the inequities that exist in our education system. Children all deserve opporutnities and I believe it is the job of the State Representative to fight to create, preserve, and defend those opprotunities.

What is your view on gay marriage?
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    Lozano
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Lozano

I support gay marriage. I am a firm believer in equal rights for all regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, income, citizenship status or past criminal record.

Tabares

I believe that individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, deserve the right to enter into a civil union and that doing so is a civil right that we all share.

The race
The candidates
Rudy Lozano, Jr.
Silvana Tabares
The district
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