Arad Boxenbaum: 2022 candidate for Illinois House 83rd District
Office sought: Illinois House 83rd District
Occupation: Community organizer, and recent graduate of DePaul University
Previous offices held: Current Trustee of the Geneva Public Library District
How well did the Illinois government respond to the COVID-19 crisis? What do you think should be done differently?
Relative to other states, Illinois did a fair job as everyone was dealt a bad hand. I admit that much of this is with the benefit of hindsight, but there were some glaring inconsistencies. The basic belief in science put us in a much better position to mitigate the spread of Covid, but vulnerabilities in our healthcare infrastructure were exposed. Vaccine rollout was far better in affluent communities while lower income communities and those with higher positivity rates were slower to receive the vaccines they need.
Aside from healthcare, eviction moratoriums were effective while they were in place, but I believe they should have been in place for longer. Efforts should have also been made to further mitigate unemployment and lower the tax burden as everyone was struggling. Overall, Illinois did a decent job but with hindsight in mind, more could have been done for the most vulnerable.
What are the most important components that should be included in legislative ethics reform? What will you do to help them come to pass?
Our political environment is plagued with dark money and a revolving door between legislators and lobbyists. Illinois passed an ethics overhaul in 2021 that placed restrictions on legislators and lobbyists, and I believe that this law needs to serve as the foundation for reigning in bad faith actors in our politics. The federal government is in the best position to crack down on corporate money, but the state should still stand to set strong limits. Most importantly, I believe that those who are elected to state office or serve as the heads of state agencies should not be allowed to become lobbyists. If elected, I will push for strict limits on money, lobbying, and legislators.
What should the state do to address the still-growing problems with its key pension programs?
We can't keep pushing this issue down the line. Pensions have snowballed over the past decade and the debts have become one of the largest existential threats to our state's economy. Illinois has made progress in paying back debts from the past decade, and Comptroller Mendoza has done a brilliant job of cutting down the state's bill backlog paired with fiscal responsibility from Governor Pritzker and Democrats in the General Assembly.
Illinois' economy is in one of its healthiest positions in the 21st century, and the time is now to prioritize paying off the state's pension debts and better fund these programs so they don't snowball again. It's a responsible use of taxpayer money in that we won't be burdened by the weight of this debt as long as we remain committed to funding these programs in good faith.
Describe at least two circumstances in which you have shown or would show a willingness to act independently of the direction or demands of party leadership.
I'm running to advance policy, not follow the party line. I'm running to make our streets safe from gun violence, protect women's right to choose, advance collective bargaining rights, and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights among many other policy areas. I've been given the distinction of "Gun Sense Candidate" by Moms Demand Action and don't see the party line when it comes to banning ghost guns and ensuring we have gun laws that preserve the 2nd Amendment but ensure that neglectful and violent gun ownership no longer plagues us.
I also believe we need to continue to expand ballot access to make sure that all citizens who are eligible to vote have fewer barriers preventing them from voting. Illinois is on the right side of history in our commitment to democracy, but we can't be complacent. We still have flaws in ensuring that minorities, the disabled, lower-income, and students in our state are able to make their voices heard.
What should lawmakers be doing to stem out-migration from Illinois?
Looking at census data, most of Illinois' out migration came from rural and southern Illinois while Kane and Kendall counties experienced significant population growth. This shows that taxation isn't the issue since rural Illinois has some of the lowest taxes in the state, rather economic opportunity (although taxes should be lowered for middle and lower class). The solution is to improve economic opportunity through incentivizing the creation of small businesses and ensuring the protection of existing ones.
We also need to improve our economic situation by paying off the state's debts in order to entice more companies to relocate to our state and show investors that we're a fiscally responsible state. Education factors into this as well, we need to improve funding to under-resourced K-12 programs and work to improve the funding and affordability of community colleges so more Illinoisans can get the access to educational empowerment and ultimately the economic empowerment they deserve.
Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should government be taking to address the issue?
Yes. Climate change is caused by human activity and those who don't recognize this have fallen behind on the public discussion. The path forward is to create a partnership with the state and free market to ease our economy into one that is carbon neutral and creates good paying union jobs in the clean energy sector. The passage of CEJA made Illinois the leader in clean energy but we can't stop here.
There are critics of renewable energy, especially solar, but I ask them to look at the science: Earth is hit with 173,000 terawatts of energy at any given moment. Why would we pass up on this source of energy that comes with no market volatility or supply issues? We need to open up more solar, wind, and hydro plants to wean our economy off of fossil fuels. We should also continue to incentivize the manufacturing and installation of electric vehicle charging stations and the lowering of costs for electric vehicles so more Illinoisans can afford them.
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 you offer voters?
graduated income tax lowers taxes for 97% of taxpayers while increasing state revenue. California, Georgia, Ohio, West Virginia, and many other states have graduated income taxes and the data shows that they're better off with their system than the flat tax we have here. This is one of the few areas it seems where Democrats and Republicans nationwide are in agreement, but we have a small number of billionaires who are spreading misinformation in order to manipulate us into helping their bank accounts instead of our own.
I urge everyone to do the research themselves and look into the majority of this country who have graduated state income tax systems and see how better off their middle and lower income residents are.