Maura Hirschauer: Candidate profile, Illinois House, 49th District
Two newcomers -- former elementary school teacher Maura Hirschauer of Batavia, a Democrat, and North Aurora Trustee Laura Curtis, a Republican -- are running for the 49th state house district seat occupied by Karina Villa, who is not seeking reelection. The district is made up of parts of Aurora, Bartlett, Batavia, Elgin, Geneva, Naperville, North Aurora, South Elgin, St. Charles, Warrenville, Wayne, and West Chicago.
Q. Should Speaker Madigan resign from his leadership positions? If he does not resign, will you support him for a new term as House speaker?
A. The allegations against Speaker Madigan are serious and should be investigated and prosecuted accordingly. If proven true, they should be condemned by all Illinois politicians. The decisions I make as state representative will directly reflect the concerns I hear from voters in our district. I will support a Speaker who can commit to protecting the well-being of the 49th district. I will support a leader who will lower the cost of health care, safeguard women's rights, and build an economy that works for our families.
However, the corruption in Springfield and Illinois is not about one person or political party. We need to protect our middle-class families from being cheated by corrupt politicians on either side of the aisle. We need to increase the penalties for public leaders who betray the public trust. This begins by enacting stiff reforms such as stripping pensions from public officials who are convicted of felonies, force corrupt public officials to pay back taxpayers, and dismantle corrupt schemes like the red-light camera program that was used by politicians and lobbyists to line their own pockets.
Q. Describe at least two circumstances in which you have shown or would show a willingness and capacity to act independently of the direction or demands of party leadership.
A. I am not a career politician; I am a mother, former elementary school teacher, and engaged member of my community. I have no ties to Springfield or Chicago politicians. My actions and convictions go far beyond party affiliation because I am a political outsider. I will work in a bipartisan manner to enact real ethics reforms, institute meaningful property tax relief, and build back a strong economy in Illinois. My priority is to ensure that every person in the 49th district has what they need to thrive. I look forward to working with colleagues of both parties to put people first and create an Illinois that works for all.
Through my advocacy work with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America I have consistently met with leaders of both parties to further public safety measures that will keep our communities safe from gun violence. Gun violence is a bipartisan public health crisis that affects all people. I work with gun owners to find common ground and work toward common sense safety measures that will improve the lives of all people.
Q. How would you rate the governor's handling of the COVID-19 crisis? Does the legislature need to have more input and influence in establishing rules and policies related to stemming the spread of the disease? What you have done differently, if anything? If nothing, please say so.
A. As we move forward and begin to reopen, we must remember the lives that were lost and the courage of our first responders. The pandemic is not only a public health crisis, but its impacts are felt throughout our economy and our daily lives. Over a million Illinoisans lost their jobs because of the pandemic and subsequent economic recession and tens of thousands of people have lost access to health care. Small business owners have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and are facing difficult reopening challenges. Gov. Pritzker led a response that was carefully guided by the advice of scientists and medical experts. He listened to science and put public safety above partisanship. However, the response at the federal level has been disastrous. The Trump administration failed in their pandemic response: harming Illinoisans by failing to provide states with adequate funding for testing and treatment and hurting our small businesses by not providing enough resources to assist small business owners. The absence of leadership from Republicans hurt our unemployed workforce, hindered our safe return to school, and has impeded the ability to rebuild our economy quickly.
Q. Regardless of whether the federal government provides assistance, what is the impact of the pandemic on the state's economic outlook and what immediate and long-term actions should be taken to address it? Would you support increasing taxes to pay for COVID-19 response or to make up for lost revenue related to COVID-19?
A. While Illinoisans are still facing the threat and consequences of the pandemic in their daily lives, the Republican Party and Trump administration are still refusing to take it seriously. President Trump is leading an anti-science crusade and abandoned states leaving them to handle the crises on their own. Senate leader Mitch McConnell believes that states should go bankrupt in the wake of a global pandemic. Where the Republican administration has failed us, we must step up to address the problems suffered by small businesses, the unemployed, seniors, and students. Our unemployment system must be strengthened to provide resources for laid off and furloughed workers. Small businesses must have loans and grants available to keep them afloat during shutdowns. We need to build our recovery in a way that will not raise taxes on middle-class and struggling families. In addition, we cannot lose sight of our everyday priorities for our residents including funding for first responders, domestic violence shelters, and access to regular medical care like lifesaving cancer screenings. We must ensure that seniors will have access to in-home care options and programs such as Meals on Wheels.
Q. The graduated income tax is designed with the intent to reduce taxes for 97 percent of Illinoisans. Do you believe that will happen? Why or why not? What assurances can be given to voters?
A. For well over a year I have dedicated my time to speaking with residents of the 49th district and they have made one thing clear: the current tax system is not working. There is too much strain placed on middle-class families. The Fair Tax amendment will ultimately be decided by the taxpayers on the November ballot instead of politicians and insiders in Springfield. Regardless of the result of the vote, we must find ways to provide income and property tax relief for working families.
Q. Do you support any type of tax on retirement benefits?
A. I do not support a tax on retirement benefits.
Q. Should Illinois prohibit lawmakers from lobbying other levels of government? Should lawmakers be prohibited from becoming lobbyists after their term in office? For how long?
A. Lawmakers should be prohibited from lobbying other parts of the government and there should be an increased waiting period for government officials to become lobbyists. The state must implement a universal lobbyist system where the taxpayers can readily access information about the insiders who are influencing policy.
Q. What are the most important components that should be included in legislative ethics reform? What will you do to help them come to pass?
A. The Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform by the Illinois General Assembly will help hold politicians accountable. The commission has faced recent challenges during the pandemic. However, commission members previously worked in a bipartisan way to improve government transparency and reform laws for lobbyists and elected officials. We need to rebuild the public trust in our government. This starts with enacting meaningful reforms and not playing partisan games to score political points. The commission had early successes, and there is still a lot of work to be done. We need to protect our middle-class families from being cheated by corrupt politicians on either side of the aisle. I look forward to enacting expansive reforms that will increase public trust in our politicians.
Q. What should the state do to address the still-growing problems with its key pension programs?
A. The pension program suffered through decades of neglect from governors and representatives from both political parties. There isn't a silver bullet to fix this problem. If elected, I will work tirelessly to fund our pension system and put the system on a path of long-term financial solvency. Legislators from both parties must commit to making full pension payments. Partisan games should not jeopardize our financial responsibilities. The underfunded pension program combined with the adverse impacts on financial markets due to an unprecedented recession have greatly impacted the return on investments in the pension system. Legislators must develop a fair, but focused plan that will not be nullified again by the Supreme Court.
Q. Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should state government be taking to address the issue?
A. Yes, climate change is caused by human activity. The state government can take steps to address climate change by supporting legislation like the Clean Energy Jobs Act. CEJA would create tens of thousands of green jobs and create a 100% renewable energy target. The state government must continue to invest in green jobs and renewable energy. However, the federal government needs to set a national agenda to address climate change. This would include listening to the science and instituting long-term national goals. Illinois has a chance to lead in the federal government's absence.
Q. Protesters have massed in the streets in Chicago and other cities across Illinois for greater social justice and changes in the funding and responsibilities for police. How significant a role does systemic racism play in limiting equal opportunity in Illinois? To the degree that it exists, what should be done about it? What, if any, changes should be made in funding and duties of police?
A. The disproportionate murder of Black men and women by police officers across the country is completely unacceptable. Listening with compassion has never been more critical than it is right at this moment and understanding the systemic barriers in education, housing, jobs, and health care is crucial. Fundamental changes to our current systems are necessary to ensure that all Illinoisans have what they need to thrive. Our children must have access to fully funded schools and teachers must have the support and tools they need to ensure student safety and success. This includes increasing mental health support in our schools and communities. I will meet with community leaders to determine the steps required to make sustainable, positive changes in the communities of the 49th district. It is critical that we invest in community-based services, like apprenticeship programs for high school students, after school care programs, and affordable housing services.