Q&A: Carol Ammons, Illinois House, 103rd District
Q&A with Carol Ammons, Democrat, Urbana, candidate for 103rd District, Illinois House.
1. Should Illinois broaden its sales tax to cover services, including such items on haircuts, medical and legal services, auto repair and more?
Any new tax should apply only to those services taxed in Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri in order to protect businesses in cities on Illinois' borders.
2. If the Illinois Supreme Court throws out last year's pension reform plan, what kind of alternative pension reform —— if any —— would you propose?
I hope the Court strikes the sections of the law that violate the state's contractual and constitutional obligations to its employees. The rest of the bill should be upheld. I support the state of Illinois paying its full obligation to all pension plans into which it should have been paying for decades.
3. You have voiced support for term limits. Who should they apply to, and what kind of limits would you support?
I think eight years of service should be the goal for most term limits, just like the president of the United States. That would mean two terms for constitutional officers and four terms for state representatives. Since state senator seats are staggered, I would propose a three-term limit for senators, meaning that a portion could hold their seats for up to 10 years. That's eight years for everyone except the 2/3 of state senators who get 10.
4. What is your position on expanded gambling in Illinois, including but not limited to the plan to add five more casinos?
I recognize that for some communities expanded gambling is part of their immediate plan for local job growth and tax revenue. However, I think any expanded gambling should be joined by robust state-funded gambling-addiction services.
5. Should there be any kind of legislative-mandated restriction on tuition increases at Illinois colleges and universities?
Every student who is accepted to a college or university should be able to attend, regardless of income. We need to increase financial aid to meet that goal. I support the legislation passed about 10 years ago that allows annual tuition increases but freezes each freshman student's tuition amount for four years. This allows families to plan how to fund a four-year education, without having to guess at tuition rates. Further, while I recognize that university and college boards of trustees need the flexibility to adjust tuition based on the individual needs of their institutions, I do think there could be more legislative oversight. Specifically, I would like to work with the Higher Education Committee to discuss ways to tie tuition increases to campus infrastructure and classroom instruction, and to ensure these expenditures are prioritized over growing the administration.
6. What is your general position on reducing Illinois prison populations? Can and should this be done, and what kind of offenders should be considered for release?
Money that should be going to public schools and to fulfilling the state's obligation to pension plans is instead being used to house non-violent offenders at a cost of $38,000 per year per person. This has got to change. I support creation of alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders. The largest number of non-violent offenders are people convicted of drug possession. If weapons, manufacture or distribution of controlled substance were not involved in the crime, drug rehabilitation would be far less expensive and a lot more just than imprisoning people. Drug addiction should be treated as a public health problem and not as a crime. People are in state prison for other non-violent crimes as well such as obstruction of justice that involved giving a false name at the time of arrest or shoplifting that was prosecuted as felony burglary. Alternatives to expensive detention in state prisons would be both more humane and more fiscally responsible.
7. Would you vote for another term as Speaker for House Speaker Michael Madigan? Why or why not?
Term limits would eliminate the problem that prompts this question. Until then, I will not antagonize Speaker Madigan by supporting a futile effort to unseat him because that would not be helpful to the people of this district. However, I am not beholden to Speaker Madigan and would consider voting for another member to be Speaker if it were someone I thought would do a good job and who had significant support from other House members.
8. Do you think Illinois' campaign disclosure laws need revision? How would you do so?
The reporting periods need to be changed so that information about donors is available before the election. The law used to require candidates to file a report two weeks before the election. I would like to reinstate that policy. For the March 18 primary, full disclosure isn't required until March 31, largely defeating the purpose of disclosure.
9. Would you support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Illinois, as has been done in Colorado?
I support immediate decriminalization of marijuana to ensure we don't waste taxpayers' money on jail or prison time for people charged only with possession. I also support full legalization of marijuana but the legislation must include safeguards against abuse such as limiting purchase to adults only and prohibiting creation of marijuana bars or other businesses established for the purpose of consuming the product on the premises. Recreational use requires extensive debates about access, and regulation.
10. There will be a multibillion-dollar hole in next year's state budget. You may be asked to fill it or cut the budget as soon as you become a state representative next January. What would you do: cut the budget, continue to the "temporary" income tax, expand the sales tax, promote a graduated income tax, or a combination of those initiatives?
I support continuing the 5 percent personal income tax rate until Illinois establishes a graduated income tax. Enacting a graduated income tax is among my top priorities. The federal government and 35 of the 43 states that have state income taxes use a graduated tax because it is a more fair system than a flat tax rate.