Q&A with Sam Rosenberg, Democrat, Champaign, 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?
I would be very skeptical of such a proposal, as sales taxes are generally regressive. A large portion of the budgets of working families and seniors living on fixed incomes is spent on essential goods and services, so raising such a tax on those already struggling to make ends makes little sense.
A better option would be to adopt a progressive income tax. I would support a progressive income tax proposal that provides tax breaks to middle-class families while making multi-millionaires pay more so they pay their fair share.
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 believe the pension law recently passed by the General Assembly is unconstitutional, and I would have opposed it on both legal and moral grounds. When the Illinois Supreme Court strikes down this law, legislators will have an opportunity to do what they should have done from the beginning — bring all stakeholders to the table and craft a constitutional solution that protects workers' retirement incomes and reins in abuses of the system. I will work to pass a measure that ensures the state's pension funds remain solvent so those who have paid into them can actually receive their retirement benefits. Any changes should be fair to taxpayers and to public sector employees. Any legislation effecting pension changes should be crafted with all voices represented.
3. You have voiced support for term limits. Who should they apply to, and what kind of limits would you support?
Term limits would be an important step in continuing the flow of new ideas and different perspectives into state government. At the same time, any proposal must be carefully crafted to ensure it does not empower lobbyists and other political insiders who are not accountable to voters. I'm open to discussion on how long individuals should be allowed to hold office, but I believe any proposal should be enforced across the board, with no carve-outs or special exemptions for certain officials.
Our most important term limits will always be elections, and I will look to support measures that help increase voter participation and simplify voter registration. I will also oppose efforts to disenfranchise voters, like voter I.D. laws.
4. What is your position on expanded gambling in Illinois, including but not limited to the plan to add five more casinos?
I do support expanded gambling, as a casino in Danville would bring a significant number of jobs to East Central Illinois. Such a facility would benefit the economy of the 103rd District
That said, precautions must be taken to expand gambling responsibly, as I recognize that casinos can have a negative impact on low-income and middle-income families.
5. Should there be any kind of legislative-mandated restriction on tuition increases at Illinois colleges and universities?
Expanding access to higher education is among the most critical challenges facing the state. The opportunity I had to attend the University of Illinois College of Law is becoming more and more difficult for too many students. I want to work with the U of I to make higher education more affordable, but one of the challenges in recent years has been insufficient state funding. Any tuition cap would need to be accompanied by guaranteed additional state funding to help ensure universities are meeting their goals and educating students. Helping students attend college is in our best interests, but any legislation that is an undue burden on schools or limits their ability to recruit and maintain a world-class staff does not help anyone. As state representative, I plan to work closely with officials from the University of Illinois and our other state schools to help make a great college education affordable.
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?
A one-size-fits-all approach to sentencing is not a workable solution, but we cannot make the same mistake by pursuing overly broad solutions to reducing the population of the state's overcrowded prisons. Too often, legislation passed with good intentions limits the ability of judges and law enforcement to explore alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders and do what's in the best interest of our state. In the same regard, legislation reducing the prison population by fiat could tie the hands of the officials we rely on to keep our communities safe.
I would be open making the legislative changes that empower judges and law enforcement to offer alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders, and facilitate the release of certain offenders. This is provided that a court, law enforcement and the Department of Corrections can agree that the individual is non-violent, poses no threat to the community and that the offender agrees to certain conditions.
As a former prosecutor, I understand there are many who should not remain on the streets because of the dangers they pose to our community, but also others who have made mistakes and are truly committed to turning their lives around. However, I would not advocate allowing dangerous, habitual offenders to re-enter society at the expense of the safety of our families.
7. Would you vote for another term as Speaker for House Speaker Michael Madigan? Why or why not?
I don't know the career plans of Speaker Madigan and I'm not interested in speculating. I am focused on discussing the issues that matter most to the people of the 103rd District. As I walk door-to-door, I talk to many of hard-working people who want to know that what the state will do to provide them with a secure retirement and ensure that our state's tax policies are working for middle-class families. I am running for state representative to join these important conversations and make the voices of this district heard.
I will weigh each and every piece of legislation that comes before the House on the basis of how it will affect my constituents. How any legislative leaders feel about the legislation won't enter into my decision making. Regardless of who the speaker of the House is, I will vote only in the best interests of the Champaign-Urbana area.
8. Do you think Illinois' campaign disclosure laws need revision? How would you do so?
The recent proliferation of shadowy political action committees, sporting catchy and misleading names, are negatively impacting the level of political discourse in this country. We have seen, especially at the federal level, an increase in negative campaigning with little or no evidence as to who is behind the attacks. These types of organizations should not only report contributors but also be held to the same disclosure standards as candidates themselves.
9. Would you support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Illinois, as has been done in Colorado?
While I support the legalization of medicinal marijuana for the sickest patients to help give them relief, this is an issue I would have to discuss further with local law enforcement officials to ensure that the safety of our communities is not jeopardized, to ensure the proper safeguards will be in place to keep drugs away from school zones and prevent drug use in public. Such a decision should be made only after legislators, law enforcement officials and concerned citizens discuss the full impact.
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 the "temporary" income tax, expand the sales tax, promote a graduated income tax, or a combination of those initiatives?
I believe we must go through the state budget line-by-line in order to make our government more efficient for taxpayers, eliminate unnecessary spending and save taxpayer dollars. While the Legislature must remain ever vigilant about cutting unnecessary spending and waste while protecting the most vital state programs and resources, the magnitude of Illinois' budget challenges are too great to be remedied with cost cutting measures alone.
While I am skeptical of efforts to further expand sales taxes, I believe a graduated income tax will be fair in decreasing the burden on middle-class taxpayers and the vast majority of Illinois citizens while providing a steadier stream of revenue. A progressive income tax would provide tax relief to middle-class families while making multimillionaires pay more so they pay their fair share.