Nabeela Syed: 2022 candidate for Illinois House 51st District
Office sought: Illinois House 51st District
Occupation: Digital Strategist
Previous offices held: None
Q: How well did the Illinois government respond to the COVID-19 crisis? What do you think should be done differently?
States with more protective policies saw fewer cases and fewer deaths. Illinois was one of those states. It was not easy -- on frontline workers, students, parents, and community members -- to adapt to policy changes. Illinois put forth many policies to prioritize public health during the pandemic. While Illinoisans were provided data and statistics throughout the pandemic, we didn't have access to the extremely detailed information our government leaders do. It is critical, especially in times of uncertainty, to increase trust in our government by being transparent and forward with information and data so our community can better understand why and how decisions are being made.
This pandemic has also taught us that we have significant work to do to address major gaps in providing real services to families. From lacking childcare for working families to poor cybersecurity infrastructure leading to the repeated hacking of our state's own employment security agency -- we need to do better.
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?
Last year, at the leadership of Senator Ann Gillespie, Illinois took a very significant step forward in passing ethics reforms. The law cracked down on the revolving door policy of allowing legislators to leave public office and go right into lobbying the colleagues they were serving alongside the day prior. By increasing the standard by which one must publicly disclose their lobbying regardless of whether they call themselves a "lobbyist", the law increases the requirement on lobbyist registration and disclosure. The Gillespie law also made necessary changes to how campaign funds can and cannot be used. I support the long-overdue reforms in Senator Gillespie's Senate Bill 539. I would like to see how these reforms are implemented to see what additional changes are needed. I also support Speaker Welch's proposals of placing term limits for party leadership and look forward to working alongside him and Sen. Gillespie to strengthen and propose additional reforms.
Q: What should the state do to address the still-growing problems with its key pension programs?
The Governor and the Illinois General Assembly recently made an additional $500M in pension payments, making up for the chronic underfunding of public employee pension systems. Within the past decade, the Illinois legislature has also reformed incoming employee pension plans (Tier 2), which offer far fewer benefits than the constitutionally mandated benefits of their colleagues in Tier 1.
Questions like this can be misleading. Pension obligations are just that -- obligations. They are not bills that are due now or in ten years. They are payments that must be made over the long-term retirement of a pensioner. Just like a mortgage or a car loan, debt is paid back over time. This is exactly how the pension program works. From first responders to school teachers, Illinoisans have played by the rules and it is time our government makes the required payments just as we've done over the past four years, at times making additional payments when able.
Q: 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 have a track record of not just working in partisan politics, but also working within our community at large for non-partisan issues. In 2021, I managed a successful campaign for a slate of school board candidates in our community, focusing on issues of mental health, accountability, and equity in our schools. I'm proud to have united and mobilized community members from all backgrounds and parties to bring strong leadership to our schools, and most importantly, to look out for students. At the end of the day, I'm running not to advance party politics, but to make a positive difference for people in our community in ways that impact their daily lives.
Suburban families are being crushed by property taxes -- this is not a partisan issue. Real solutions are overdue and leaders of this state need to do more to address this burden. I am eager to be a part of the solution. Democrats have the ability to do good on this issue and I'll insist on it if elected.
Q: What should lawmakers be doing to stem out-migration from Illinois?
Illinois is almost unrecognizable from just four years ago. We've eliminated our bill backlog, passed balanced budgets, invested in childcare and senior homecare programs, put more money into education, rebuilt our states human services network, passed welcoming immigration policies to help build our tax base, passed the REV Act which makes one of the largest investments in the booming electric vehicle industry, put Illinois on a path to be carbon-free by 2045, increased wages for workers at the bottom of the economic ladder, stood up for reproductive rights, and so much more. Our state has turned a corner.
We need to continue this fiscally responsible progress and the next step is addressing the burden of property taxes in our district and across our state. Our community, especially senior residents reliant on a fixed income, are rightfully concerned about how much they are paying in property taxes and it's time to act on it to make sure Illinoisans are able to stay in our state.
Q: Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should government be taking to address the issue?
In my lifetime, I have seen the conversation and action around climate change shift drastically, but global temperatures are still rising at an alarming rate. As State Representative, I will work on the implementation of the recently passed Clean Energy Jobs Act. This law puts Illinois on track to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2045 and supports the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs. There is more work to be done regarding our transportation systems for both accessibility and environmental reasons. We need more robust local public transportation in the suburbs and work to expand public walking and biking infrastructure. We have an incredible opportunity to focus on electrification of our transportation systems, including our public transportation vehicles and automobiles. I would support measures to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure to make the transition to electric vehicles more convenient. These changes will help reduce emissions and improve air quality.
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 you offer voters?
We owe Illinoisans a conversation on how to reduce the tax burden while maintaining quality public services. While the graduated income tax would have reduced taxes for the majority of Illinoisans in the short run, many voters were wary of changes in future income tax brackets and rates. If there were to be another graduated income tax proposal, residents should be given clear information about their individual tax burden, the process for adjusting future tax rates, and how revenue would be allocated.
Voters, especially in our community, voted against a graduated income tax in 2020, and there are other ways to reform our tax system. When large businesses with facilities in the district, like UPS and Amazon, are appealing their taxes and shifting the burden onto homeowners and small businesses, it's clear we need to fix the property tax system. I can assure voters that I will work to reduce their tax burden while maintaining the high quality of public services in our community.