In an effort to get to know our gubernatorial candidates — many of whom live right here in our community — we invited each of them to answer 11 pressing questions on everything from global warming to gun control. So far, four have responded: Democrats Daniel Biss, Bob Daiber, Chris Kennedy, and Robert Marshall. Here’s what they had to say.
Make It Better: Please define yourself and your campaign.
Biss: I am a middle-class father, public school parent, and progressive state senator and I’m running for governor to build a state that works for middle-class and working families. I began my career teaching math, and first got involved in grassroots organizing in response to the Iraq War. I fell in love with the idea that we can transform our communities when we unite around a common vision, and this fundamental faith in grassroots politics inspired me to run for office for the first time a decade ago, to organize Illinoisans around progressive reform during my time in the legislature, and to run for governor now. My campaign is centered around these same principles: with a bold, progressive vision for fully and fairly funding our schools, making healthcare a human right, guaranteeing living wages, and other crucial reforms, we’re uniting voters in communities across the state. We’re building a grassroots movement powerful enough to push the limits of what’s possible and win the progressive reforms middle-class and working families need.
Daiber: In 2014, Pat Quinn won Cook County only, and yet was within a few percentage points of being re-elected. I decided that we needed a candidate from Downstate who could appeal to people who feel they’ve been ignored. I am a county-wide elected official in the most populated county south of the Chicago area, and I’ve been in government and politics for 20 years, so I decided to run.
The current governor ignores Downstate too — but people vote for him because he stokes the Us vs. Them mentality that is so harmful to our state. I don’t and won’t play that game. I care about people all over Illinois.
By way of background, I have been the Madison County regional superintendent of schools since 2007. I was a Madison County Board member and chairman of the Planning and Development Committee before that, and I was a council member in my hometown of Marine. I was a teacher for 28 years at Triad H.S. in Troy, a member of the Illinois Education Association, and for four years the president of the IEA local at Triad.
I am the most experienced candidate in the race, in terms of government and politics, and I’m a progressive Democrat — the first Democrat from Downstate to run for governor in 20 years. It’s easy to be a progressive in Evanston. In Southern Illinois, you have to fight for it. I will fight for progressive values in Springfield.
Kennedy: I have built up a unique set of skills and experiences that enable me to set an ambitious vision and achieve a progressive agenda for the future of our State. I’ve seen Illinois from many different vantage points, and I see its potential everywhere throughout our State.
When I first moved to Illinois, I worked in agriculture at Archer Daniels Midland. I previously ran the Convention Bureau as its chairman and served as a large-scale employer when I was President of the Merchandise Mart. I have served as a member of the City of Chicago’s Green Ribbon Committee, and I co-chaired the Cook County Sustainability Advisory Council. I served as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the University of Illinois under Governor Quinn. Early on in my career, I served as the Chair of the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The experience helped Sheila and me in creating Top Box Foods, a low-cost, high-quality food service that provides groceries to food deserts in the greater Chicagoland area. Together, we are running and operating this social business today through community centers and churches in and around Chicago. Many of our customers are families whom today’s economy has left behind.
I am also currently developing three buildings along the Chicago River, and that development has already created hundreds of jobs.
I know firsthand that Illinois is an amazing state. We are the fifth largest economy in the U.S., and our state should be thriving — we have great people, we are a transit epicenter, we have great agriculture, we have a great university system, and we have a highly skilled workforce.
I believe in government and its ability to restore our economy. I believe that government has an important role to play in investing in the people that our economy is meant to serve, and with my candidacy, I bring a demonstrated commitment to public service. I am running to be the next Governor of Illinois because I want to do what generations in my family have done before me — I want to serve.
Marshall: My campaign has three parts:
1. Legalizing marijuana throughout Illinois and allowing casino gambling in Chicago.
2. Opposing all tax increases, including income taxes and graduated income taxes and all other state taxes.
3. Dividing Illinois up into three new states.
Do you believe that public investment in early childhood education offsets substantially greater remedial education dollars for older students? If so, what actions will your administration take?
Biss: Yes, I believe that early childhood education has life-long effects and should be available to every family. However, despite its importance, access is often restricted along lines of race, class, and geography, denying children and families crucial opportunities. I have announced a policy platform that supports early childhood education by transforming the Child Care Assistance Program into a system of universal affordable childcare. The program will provide greater support for families with greater need and allow families to choose the type of care that is best for them.
Daiber: Yes. Illinois used to be a leader in early childhood education, but budget cuts have made us a laggard. Ultimately, money is the answer. We have to decide what kind of state we want this to be — one with educated residents or uneducated, unemployable mopes. Not only do I support early childhood education, but I also have a plan for early reading remediation and subject matter coaches so if students fall behind, they can catch up.
Kennedy: Early childhood programs are the foundation of student learning and provide the greatest return on taxpayer investment. Expanding early childhood education programs in Illinois would help narrow the achievement gap, raise lifetime earnings, improve health and social emotional development, lower involvement in the criminal justice system, and reduce the need for remedial education.
My administration would support all-day kindergarten for all children and will help local school districts implement it statewide. We will also be committed to expanding quality preschool programs statewide by establishing an Early Childhood Education State Agency. This new agency will centralize funding for early childhood education across the state’s mixed delivery system of childcare providers and early childhood education classrooms and make the state better equipped to decide how to increase access to quality programs equitably. To learn more about my education and early childhood policy proposals, please visit our website, kennedyforillinois.com or click here to read my plan.
Marshall: I believe that early childhood education is very helpful but this should be left up to the parent and should not be required by the public school administration.
Public education expenditure in affluent suburban school districts — like New Trier and Evanston — far exceeds what is spent in less affluent areas. Do you believe that this spending disparity needs to be rectified? If so, how will your administration accomplish this?
Biss: I believe that we must overhaul our school funding formula to guarantee every student a quality education, regardless of race, class, or zip code. Right now, our reliance on property taxes as a school funding source means that schools in more affluent districts get more funding. I would reduce our reliance on property taxes as a funding source, instead funding our schools by passing a progressive income tax, taxing financial transactions, and closing the carried interest loophole, and would rewrite our school funding formula to distribute this revenue equitably. Lastly, I would repeal Bruce Rauner’s school voucher program to keep taxpayer dollars in neighborhood public schools.
Daiber: I agree with the evidence-based funding formula (the Manar-Davis legislation) that takes into account a school district’s level of poverty and property value in allocating funds — but we are $6 billion short of being able to fund that formula fully. I will try, during four years in office, to get the formula fully funded. Illinois, on average, has adequate per-pupil spending — but there are many places where spending is below what it should be.
Kennedy: We need to move to a graduated progressive income tax to fund our local schools. In most states, around half of the state and local funding for education comes from the state. In Illinois, the state pays closer to 25 percent of the cumulative funding for education that all districts receive. Critics will say that Illinois spends over $1,000 above the national average on per-pupil spending, but this doesn’t tell the entire story. Illinois school districts with the greatest number of low-income students receive 20 percent less funding than wealthier districts. Not only are under-resourced communities being systematically denied their fair share, but they are also asked to fill the gap with local taxes despite having a lower tax base. Our reliance on the property tax system to fund schools penalizes every school district and unfairly burdens homeowners with high property taxes.
Currently, the more money that a district can raise through property taxes, the more money it can spend on education per student. This allows us to spend the greatest amount of money on the students in the wealthiest communities who need the least amount of additional services. This violates the fundamental concept of equity. School funding on the state level should be wealth-neutral so that all of Illinois’ children receive the same basic level of high-quality education, independent of how much their homes are worth or the amount of wealth in their communities. Local districts should be free to generate more revenue to supplement state funds, but no district should suffer for the inability to fund schools locally. The new state school funding formula requires an additional $5 billion to adequately fund education in Illinois. We cannot rely on an inequitable property tax system to continue funding our schools.
Marshall: I believe that all children should receive the exact same amount of money from the state.
What will your administration do to rein in Illinois’ ballooning deficit?
Biss: For too long, our state has let corporations and the wealthy off the hook for paying their fair share of taxes while telling the rest of us that there isn’t enough money in the budget to fund our schools, social services, infrastructure, and other priorities. In the legislature, I’ve introduced a constitutional amendment to allow for a progressive income tax, sponsored legislation to close the carried interest loophole, and co-sponsored legislation to tax financial transactions. I will continue fighting for these progressive revenue sources to support a balanced budget that invests in our families and communities.
Daiber: Efficiency in government is great, and I will try to eliminate any position or office that duplicates work that someone else is doing. But efficiency will save us nickels and dimes. The billions are in debt service, pension payments, aid to school districts, and Medicaid. We have to pay our bonded indebtedness, otherwise we’ll close up shop lock, stock and barrel and move to Alaska. We can’t skimp on employer pension contributions, because that’s what we’ve done for 40 years and look where we are. We are actually looking for MORE money for education, and Medicaid makes up 42 percent of the state budget. Medicaid is a terrible program — bad for the clients, bad for the service providers and bad for the taxpayers — but for some people, it’s all they have. We need a national health care for all program. That would help our Illinois budget problem tremendously.
Kennedy: For decades, politicians in Springfield have not lived up to their obligations to fund the pension system, which is causing our state deficit to balloon. The state must pay its annual obligations every year. As Governor, I will not sign any budget that defers any pension payment and I will be a good faith partner to our unions in working toward possible structural reforms.
There are four steps we have to take. Infuse the pension system with an upfront investment either through refinancing our debt, tax reform, or both; stretch out our repayment timeline; lower our payments to a manageable size so we aren’t creating more debt or being a deadbeat when it comes to paying down our debt, and then, most importantly, never taking another pension holiday again. There’s no way around it. If we do not properly fund our pension system, the state’s deficit will only continue to grow.
Marshall: We should fight the deficit by tightening the belt of Springfield government. I am opposed to raising taxes.
Do you believe that it is a fundamental conflict for elected state officials to also work as property tax appeal attorneys? What is your opinion of Chris Kennedy’s End The Racket Pledge campaign?
Biss: Banning elected officials from serving as property tax lawyers is an appealing idea given histories of corruption at the county and state levels, but the idea is likely unconstitutional. Even beyond the legal issue, this solution misdiagnoses and simplifies the problem: rather than just change policies surrounding property tax lawyers, we must overhaul our broken assessment and appeals processes that take advantage of middle-class and working people while letting wealthy homeowners off the hook. I introduced the HOME Act to bring transparency and fairness to this broken system, and will continue fighting for systemic reforms when I’m governor.
Daiber: No. And I’m not commenting on another candidate’s campaign pledge.
Kennedy: I’m a big proponent of the End the Racket Pledge Campaign! Until we can implement the progressive tax, we need to reform our broken property tax system. Even though we now have an equitable way to allocate funding to schools across the state, we are not providing enough revenue as a state for every school to get the amount of funding it needs.
This is because Illinois disproportionately relies on local property taxes to fund our schools, with state contributions making up a smaller portion of funding compared to other states. We do this because a handful of elected legislators have outside jobs as property tax appeals attorneys. Being a State Representative or a State Senator is not a full-time job, and some of our legislators have outside jobs that make them millions of dollars appealing people’s property tax bills. This is a clear conflict of interest. These elected officials keep our schools reliant on funding from property taxes, a system that they benefit from, as opposed to moving to a graduated progressive income tax to fund our schools. Democrats had a supermajority in the House, a supermajority in the Senate and a Democratic Governor and we still failed to get a progressive income tax all because of the property tax racket.
The state’s new education funding formula gives us all a reason to care about assessed property values in every community in every county of our state. Under the new education funding formula, education dollars for local school districts are allocated based on a school district’s needs coupled with local capacity to fund schools, which is calculated based on the total assessed value of property that the school district can tax. If a local government artificially decreases their total property values, as the Cook County Assessor routinely does, there is a potential for money to flow away from communities that need it most.
We have to get the dirty money out of politics in order to get the dirty politicians out of government. Help us do that by visiting our website kennedyforillinois.com and signing the pledge, and read more about my plans to end the racket, here.
Marshall: Elected officials should not work as property tax appeal attorneys.
What is your position on DACA and Dreamers currently working legally in the state?
Biss: I have been a vocal supporter of DACA and Dreamers, co-sponsored the Trust Act, and have worked with local governments to pass “welcoming city” ordinances. As governor, I will continue to fight for policies to guarantee opportunity and security for every Illinoisan, regardless of where they were born or what form of documentation they have, and will oppose any efforts to end DACA at the federal level.
Daiber: Ultimately, we need an immigration law nationally that allows for out-of-status immigrants to get adjusted to legal status. Immigrants are good for our country, and I don’t mean just because they can be exploited for cheap labor. Some of them are brilliant professors and business leaders, and our culture and demographics need the influx of new people and new ideas from around the world. DACA is a stopgap measure which I believe should be extended, but ultimately we need a comprehensive new law nationally that is not based in fear or racism, but in what’s good for America and what’s good for people who wish to come here.
Kennedy: My administration will fight Trump, who is creating a toxic environment for immigrants based on fear and hatred. I will uphold the Trust Act, and send a message that every resident of Illinois is safe and free to be here, including Illinois’ Dreamers.
I believe the Trust Act is really an extension of community policing and the idea that we can create community between the police and the people of our state. We’ve seen that this is an effective strategy in places like Los Angeles and New York, which have both seen reductions in gun violence. When you threaten deportation, when people see the police as a threat, we destroy the bonds we need to create within our communities to ensure safety and stability. I support the Trust Act. I also think we should pass the pending legislation on Immigration Safe Zones, so that schools, hospitals, and places of worship are designated as police-free zones, where undocumented immigrants can feel safe to learn, receive medical care, and practice their faith.
Immigrants are America, and there is no reason they should not become Americans. I support everyone being extended the opportunity to apply and gain full citizenship, and I am committed to working with our federal delegation to make sure that Illinois’ legislators do the right thing by every resident of our state.
Marshall: I support the DACA program.
What is your position on gun control and how will your administration address violence in Chicago? What, if any, criminal justice system reforms need to be enacted?
Biss: I believe we must address violence of all kinds in Chicago and throughout the state. I will work to prevent domestic violence and support survivors by expanding access to social services and passing policies to make sure people who experience domestic violence can access healthcare, legal advice, and other forms of support without their abusers knowing. I will also invest in our communities, from fully funding schools to creating jobs, to prevent crime and violence. To end the epidemic of gun violence, I support common-sense measures such as the Gun Dealer Licensing Act I’m co-sponsoring in the Senate, restricting the number of guns that can be purchased within a certain time span, enacting a Lethal Violence Order of Protection to disqualify domestic abusers from owning firearms, and banning bump stocks, high capacity magazines, and assault weapons. We must also fully fund violence prevention and intervention programs and pass Medicare-for-All in Illinois to guarantee universal access to mental healthcare. I have also introduced the most comprehensive criminal justice reform policy of any campaign to end mass incarceration and focus on community investment by reforming sentencing and pre-trial detention policies, bringing accountability and transparency to our police force, supporting re-entry, and reducing recidivism.
Daiber: I am running for governor of Illinois, not mayor of Chicago, and Chicago is not the only place that is experiencing violence — so I will address this from a state-wide perspective: I am a gun owner, a hunter, and a gun collector. I supported the enactment of concealed carry in Illinois, and I believe the law we have is reasonable. There have been incidents of accidental or unwarranted shootings by concealed-carry permit holders, but there have been many instances when a concealed-carry permit holder used his or her gun — either on private property or in public — to thwart a crime.
I support the Second Amendment establishment of a right to keep and bear arms, and I agree with the Heller and McDonald decisions, which affirm that as an individual right. However, it is a right that can be regulated, and it should be regulated in several ways that it is not now:
I support a ban on assault weapons. These have no place in society. When gun manufacturers are making guns under military contract, once the contract expires, their patent should be revoked. These guns should not be in the hands of civilians.
I believe that bump stocks, high-capacity magazines, and silencers should not be permitted outside of firing ranges. I understand hobbyists like to try a variety of firearms and accessories, and I don’t want to stand in the way of their enjoyment, but these should not be allowed off-premises.
We obviously have a problem with gun trafficking. In almost every case, a gun that was used in a crime was not legally possessed by the offender. Every gun that leaves the factory or arrives on the import dock is a legal weapon, and it ends up in the hands of a legal, licensed dealer. At some point, the chain of legal possession is broken — often intentionally. We must register and track the transfer of firearms so that when a gun is used in a crime, investigators can discover where it came from and who is responsible for the illegal transfer. These people are criminals too. A law like this does nothing to interfere with the right of law-abiding gun owners to possess firearms. This is not going to solve our gun-crime problem overnight, but over time it will significantly decrease illegal gun ownership.
I grew up and continue to live in a semi-rural area where guns are just another tool. I and others I know own guns for hunting, target shooting, protection of property, and for personal protection, and this is fine. But we cannot ignore than in many parts of our state, from Waukegan to East St. Louis, there are too many illegal guns, and they turn every confrontation into a race for the trigger. Disputes that used to be settled with fists are now settled with bullets, and we must take action to keep guns away from those who are underage, or who do not have a FOID card, or who have not undergone concealed carry training, or who are ineligible because of a record of violent crime.
Kennedy: We know that the majority of guns that are used in crimes in Illinois (60 percent) come from bordering states like Indiana and Wisconsin. That’s why a key piece of the eight-point plan that I laid out to combat gun violence is shutting down straw purchasers, which allow people to buy guns at traveling trade shows without having to go through background checks. This is an attack on our safety and a policy that our state retailers should help us shepherd through because it puts them at a disadvantage.
It is also imperative that we pass the Illinois Gun Dealer Act into law, which would mandate state licensing for all Illinois firearms dealers who are currently only required to be licensed at the federal level; and I would create a statewide gun tracing program. We can’t get to the root of a problem if we can’t consistently trace it back to the source.
Lastly, the gun trains, which have been allowed to self-regulate and whose negligent behavior has led to multiple thefts of guns, will receive a zero tolerance policy from my administration. One rail line company alone has allowed more than 100 stolen guns to be released out onto our streets and those are only the thefts we know about.
We have the ability to limit illegal gun access that would better protect the people of our state without violating responsible gun owners’ second amendment rights. The time for talk is over. We need to act. I’ve released an Eight Point Plan to Combat Gun Violence, which you can read on my website or by clicking here.
However, combating gun violence is only one aspect of critical criminal justice reforms that need to take place. Making our criminal justice system more equitable will be a long road that involves addressing multiple challenges. Within the system, we must improve officer training, including implicit/unconscious bias and de-escalation training in addition to reforming the police department and the cash bond system. However, we also have to recognize that highly segregated, highly concentrated poverty will continue to create the breeding grounds for violence, and if we don’t make our society more equitable, our criminal justice system will continue to perpetuate the inequality that has a chokehold across our cities and on our state.
I also support a consent decree for Chicago. It’s time there was real oversight over the city’s criminal justice system, as our elected officials have just not done enough to protect the all the people living in Chicago. Additionally, I would expand access to medical marijuana and commute low-level, nonviolent drug offenses.
Marshall: The violence in Chicago should be addressed by legalizing marijuana and decriminalizing cocaine so that the medical community can treat cocaine addicts as patients rather than criminals.
What is the current status of Illinois jobs? How would this be improved in your administration?
Biss: I believe that we need to create more jobs throughout the state, especially in communities of color, rural areas, and other communities that have faced generations of disinvestment. These disparities in unemployment are no accident: from unequal school funding to inadequate public transit to an economic system rigged in favor of big corporations and against small businesses, it’s clear our state’s own policies and budgeting decisions are at fault. As governor, I will support job training programs including apprenticeships and technical training programs at community colleges to help match people in need of work with good jobs. I will also pass a capital bill to support infrastructure development including fixing roads and bridges, investing in energy efficiency and green technology, and modernizing water infrastructure, and will concentrate these projects and jobs that accompany them in communities that have faced disinvestment.
Daiber: Bruce Rauner, who pulled in $90 million in investment income as a retiree last year, thinks Illinois’ working men and women make too much money. If they work in the private sector, their high wages make Illinois uncompetitive. If they work in the public sector, they’re ripping off the taxpayers, according to Bruce. In my view, Illinois cannot compete on the basis of cheap wages.
We have some fine industrial communities in our state, from Elgin to Rockford to Galesburg to Granite City. These are places where, if you have a good job, you can work hard, raise a family, enjoy life, contribute to the community, and look forward to a secure retirement. But if you’re going to be working at Wendy’s for $9 an hour, you can just as easily do that in Fort Lauderdale. Illinois must have jobs that pay good wages. I’m pro-union. I’m for prevailing wage and project labor agreements, and I’m against Right to Work for Less, which doesn’t promote economic development, unless you think workers making less money equals economic development.
Kennedy: Our universities can play a significant role in job growth, creating new companies, and spawning entirely new industries, which can contribute to the economic rebirth of our state and region. Universities are often home to critical research operations. Places like Boston, Silicon Valley, and the Research Triangle in North Carolina, among other locations, have research universities that feed into the local economy.These institutions invest in basic research that is developed into applied research, which spurs new ideas and products that attract additional investment. Those new ideas and products can then turn into companies or organizations that employ people who pay taxes, which help fund our schools — all of which fuels a virtuous economic cycle.
The alumni of MIT alone have founded over 30,000 companies. We have great universities. There’s no reason we can’t create this same robust system here through our public institutions. If we give the world highly educated kids, the world will give us its jobs. If we have the most highly educated kids in the country, we will have the best economy in the world. As Governor, I will create this cycle of opportunity in Illinois by bringing together political, business, and academic leaders to work in concert with one another to operate robust research operations and attract local investments
I am also committed to leveraging infrastructure investments to spur economic growth, particularly for challenged communities. We will reserve funds for capital spending to target infrastructure investments in under-resourced communities along with technical assistance from the state to invest in community development projects related to infrastructure and transportation. Moreover, the state will invest in building a robust workforce program designed around infrastructure investments that will target the hard to employ, underemployed, reentry individuals, and veterans, for jobs within key sectors for capital investments, including: broadband access, open lands, transportation, and water infrastructure. Read our comprehensive plan for Building an Equitable Economy in Illinois on our website and here.
Marshall: We should improve Illinois jobs by opposing further increases in taxes, including income, sales, gasoline, tobacco, alcohol, etc.
What is the current state of health care in Illinois? How will your administration address this?
Biss: I believe the Affordable Care Act was a significant step forward in expanding access to healthcare, but did not go far enough in guaranteeing that every person can exercise their right to healthcare. We can’t wait for Congress to make the improvements we need: we must take leadership at the state level by passing Medicare-for-all and encouraging other states to do the same. Medicare-for-all has been a part of my platform since I ran for office for the first time in 2008, is foundational to my campaign, and will be a central priority of mine as governor.
Daiber: I’m for health care for everyone. Until there’s a federal program, I’m for the expansion of community health clinics run by county health departments. This is a reasonably-priced way to deliver services to needy communities.
Kennedy: Access to quality, affordable health care is the most fundamental basis for quality of life. I believe that Illinois can play a major role in ensuring that every resident has access to health care and quality health care experiences at all stages of life. No individual or family should suffer for lack of access to care, and no individual or family should suffer because they cannot afford health care. Our state thrives when our residents are healthy and able to contribute fully to society. We envision a state where high-quality health care is easily accessible, affordable, and delivered with compassion.
Our administration will put Illinois on a path to a single-payer system. We will start by creating a state-backed public option of large-scale, Illinois-based employers and pre-existing municipal insurance pools to allow them to aggregate together as one negotiating entity to drive down costs. This will reduce our reliance on costly, profit-driven insurance companies and provide modern, accessible, and just coverage to all.
These aggregated insurance pools will emerge as an economic and political force in the state with clout, leverage, and contacts to overcome the insurance lobby. By allowing the largest employers in the state to work together to negotiate the cost of health coverage and drug prices, existing insurance companies will become nothing more than benefits managers.
Once established, with a solid foundation of committed members and employers, the employer-backed option will be made available to anyone in the state — including undocumented immigrants — which will further drive down costs for plan holders and the overall health care market in Illinois.
The new Republican Tax Plan has eliminated the Obamacare health care mandate, which is predicted to cause everyone’s premiums to rise and leave more people without health insurance. We must fight to protect the Affordable Care Act. States around the country are already working to enact statewide health care mandates, and Illinois should be no exception. A Health Care Mandate for Illinois will keep everyone insured and help control the rising cost of health care.
As part of our Health Care platform, we’ve called for a Medicaid Buy-In program to expand Medicaid. Our administration will create a Medicaid Buy-In Program to allow those families who cannot afford a plan on the Health Care Exchange but who also don’t qualify for Medicaid to pay a less expensive premium, based on their income, in order to receive Medicaid coverage. Read our comprehensive Health Care Policy Platform for Illinois on our website, here.
Marshall: I am in favor of Obamacare and where possible we should continue to expand Medicaid coverage.
What role should Illinois play in the fight against climate change?
Biss: I believe Illinois should be a leader in combating climate change, and will pursue policies to transition to 100 percent clean energy in Illinois. I have always earned a 100 percent approval rating from the Illinois Environmental Council, was the first Democratic candidate for governor to pledge to to enter Illinois into the U.S. Climate Alliance if elected, and am the only candidate to sign the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge to reject donations from the fossil fuel industry. I developed a PACE financing bill, finally passed into law last year, to allow municipalities to establish green Special Service Areas and provide low-cost loans to commercial properties looking to invest in energy efficiency, water efficiency, and renewable energy improvements. I also passed legislation to authorize the state to conduct research on wind farm development along Lake Michigan.
Daiber: I’m in favor of best environmental practices — in transportation, industry, electricity generation, and agriculture. Environmental best practices are GOOD for business, and good for the people of Illinois.
Kennedy: If we as a nation do not lead on a clean energy economy to fight climate change, then we will wind up following the lead of the countries that do. State governments have an enormous opportunity to take the lead in the U.S. to push us toward a renewable-energy future. It’s undeniable that those who are on the forefront of renewable energy will play a leading role in the future economy. Advancing renewable energy should be our ultimate priority, and I believe it’s imperative that we set a 100 percent renewable goal by 2045 similar to that of Hawaii and efforts in California.
Almost all energy is consumed in buildings, and our state government is arguably the largest landlord in Illinois. Right away, I will commit Illinois to using 100 percent renewable energy within 10 years. With the rapidly declining costs of solar and wind energy, we already have the technology we need today to dramatically increase the amount of renewable energy we use, which will also create more clean energy jobs and help protect all of Illinois’ residents.
Marshall: We should continue our efforts to encourage renewable sources of energy.
What is your position on the legalization of marijuana and the role it would play in Illinois?
Biss: I support fully legalizing cannabis. I voted in favor of decriminalization and am co-sponsoring legislation to legalize cannabis in Illinois. I believe that current policies unfairly target people of color and unnecessarily burden taxpayers with the costs of prosecuting these low-level offenses. As governor, I will legalize and tax cannabis and exercise my commutation powers to keep families together and raise the revenue we need to fund our budget priorities.
Daiber: I am for legalizing marijuana, because prohibition is worse. However, I would not sign legislation without favorable results from a referendum. If we legalize marijuana, I would commute the sentences of people imprisoned for marijuana-based crimes, and look at expunging criminal records. I am not eyeballing a windfall of tax revenue — though there would be some tax revenue, and that will help the state financially.
Kennedy: I believe we should legalize marijuana, finalize our decriminalization process, commute marijuana sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders, and broaden access to medical marijuana, which should be an issue between a patient and her doctor.
However, the way we move to legalization really matters. I’ve talked to Governor [John] Hickenlooper of Colorado, and they moved too quickly. Today, THC can be highly concentrated to make edibles, which can be made in the shape of candy, causing children to find them, ingest them, and overdose. It’s critical for public health that the state regulate the amount of THC that can be concentrated. We also need to better understand how to police driving while high, since no field sobriety indicator for THC is as accurate as sobriety tests for blood alcohol content.
We shouldn’t leave these decisions in the hands of paid lobbyists and politicians. I would appoint an honest broker like the University of Illinois to put together a legislative package, and I would support whatever they recommend.
Marshall: I am for legalization of marijuana throughout the state. The extra revenue from this source should be distributed to property owners.