With Election Day rapidly approaching, the campaign for Illinois governor has been contentious, to say the least - with ad after ad saturating the state and each of the candidates firing off countless attacks on their opponents at every turn.
To help cut through the noise, we asked all four candidates 11 of the most important questions to help inform voters on who they are and where they stand on certain issues facing Illinois.
Below are Libertarian candidate for governor Grayson 'Kash' Jackson's answers as they were submitted —
1. What are the three biggest issues you see facing the state and what are your plans to address them?
2. Should you be elected governor, what are your immediate priorities for 2019?
I combined my answers for these first two questions because they seemed so closely related and I didn’t want one answer to take away from the other.
- A balanced budget. Despite political claims, Illinois has not had a balanced budget since 2001. This also includes the pension crisis, which is something I address below.
- A five-year property tax freeze. Revenues can be gathered from other sources, as I offer several below without having to raise taxes, and this will help offset the costs from the massive pension problem.
- Implementing a training and release program for those convicted of victimless drug offenses. This isn’t just for economic reasons, but also for ethical reasons.
3. How do you plan to work with President Donald Trump's administration?
I will work with Trump when he wants to do good things that I agree with, and oppose him when he goes against the interests of Illinois and its people. I plan to stay within the confines of the Constitution, both state and federal.
4. Where do you stand on the implementation of a graduated income tax? If you support it, how do you plan to implement it?
In general, I do not support a graduated income tax of any kind. Illinois should maintain a fair economic environment that does not penalize success and encourages businesses and citizens to invest here.
I would, however, support a 100 percent income tax cut for families below the poverty line. This would not require an amendment to the Illinois Constitution. Households under the federal poverty level guidelines would receive a personal deduction at 100 percent of the poverty level. This deduction would also be available to households until 200 percent of the poverty level, tapering off so as not to create a “welfare trap.” Cutting taxes for families below the poverty line will let them keep more of their own income, helping them to rise out of poverty and reducing their dependence on welfare.
5. Do you believe Illinois should legalize recreational marijuana? If so, how would you make this happen?
Absolutely - legalize it! Illinois has recently taken some steps in the right direction by legalizing some medical marijuana, and more recently industrial hemp. We can do more.
I’d like to see not only medical marijuana available to all citizens of Illinois, but recreational cannabis as well. Legalized cannabis creates entire new industries, along with a tourist component that our state could definitely benefit from.
Right now, Illinois is falling apart. We have people fleeing everyday, seeking a better life. Taxes are too high, and it’s pushing home and business owners out. Our pension program is failing. The schools in Chicago are squeezed for funding. Let’s legalize marijuana, and enjoy the windfall tax revenues that Washington and Colorado have seen.
We can’t, however, simply legalize cannabis based on the idea that government wants to spend more - we need to do it for ethical reasons. As Governor, I plan to pardon anyone with non-violent cannabis related offenses and get them back to work and back with their families. These steps will help to create a stronger, better Illinois.
6. Do you support term limits for elected officials? If so, how would you make this happen?
Service in a public office should not become a career. Too often, we’ve seen our elected officials serving for astoundingly long terms in office, effectively blocking the introduction of new minds and new ideas, and to solve the problems which many of these career politicians created.
They’ve moved from doing what is best for the people of Illinois to what is best for keeping themselves in power. Our state is being held in a stranglehold and bled dry by those who hold this power. It has led to a disenfranchisement of Illinois voters and is part of the reason for the exodus of residents Illinois now faces.
I am strongly in favor of term limits. As governor, I would limit myself to two terms just as many other states have in place, and would encourage and support efforts in our state to apply term limits to all branches of our government. The best way would be by a constitutional amendment, similar to the one a few years ago that unfortunately never made it into the hands of voters’ ballots.
7. What is your plan to address Illinois' unfunded pension liability?
A bankrupt state pays no pensions, and my goal is to save those pensions as best I can. When Section 5 of Article XIII was written, Illinois had far fewer employees, it it seemed more realistic to ensure that workers would receive the pensions they earned. Back in 1970, there was not the severe administrative bloating that we have today.
I would propose the legislature repeal Section 5 of Article XIII and replace it with a 403(b)-style retirement program. If you are over 42.5 years of at this time, you may keep the pension and if you are under 42.5 years, you and all new hires will be moved to or join the 403(b)-retirement program.
I will also work to cut back on administrative positions in every branch of government when possible. I will change the formula for administration pensions to a percentage based on the average first four years of salary, which would eliminate the policy of pension spiking in the last four years. I will propose a constitutional amendment in the legislature to cap defined benefit plan payouts of all administrative positions and elected officials at $100,000 per year as it is for all state university football and basketball coaches now.
I have many ideas for raising funds to help cover these costs and others, which are addressed in the question below. I do not support re-amortizing debt as that will only kick the can further down the road, and our state can no longer afford to do that.
8. What do you believe can or should be done on the state level to address rising property taxes?
There are numerous ways to raise money without raising or levying new taxes that we want to employ to help Illinois pay for its obligations. I want to lease naming rights to infrastructure. Many firms pay tens of millions to lease the names of stadiums that are only used for part of the year. Companies would be more than willing to spend good money for the naming rights for major bridges and roadways. This would get their name mentioned hundreds of times every day on the radio during rush hour, and would thus make it a worthy investment for many businesses. This could be utilized to cover education costs and pension costs by local municipalities to ease their own burdens of property tax.
As mentioned above, legalizing cannabis would raise revenue even before new taxes are added because the existing related sales and income taxes would bring in a lot of money. Sales taxes alone before additional taxes would bring in around $180 million a year based on Colorado’s numbers. We would also save money from not having to incarcerate so many people as we have over the years.
Opening up gambling in Illinois would also be a big tourist attraction. There are currently six casinos in Illinois. If local municipalities want to open brick and mortar casinos, that decision should be kept at the local level, and can use existing infrastructure like racetracks. Private businesses should be free to open casinos in any manner they choose, and can provide an economic boon to the state through job creation and tax revenue.
I also support the expansion of effective charter schools and networks that provide much-needed alternatives for low-income communities. Charter schools offer competition for regular public schools, and statistically many charter schools provide opportunities for low-income and urban students to receive college educations. Also, charter schools can vary their methods and offerings, allowing students and parents to choose schools based on their particular needs and career goals.
9. What do you believe can or should be done on the state level to curb violence in Chicago?
From the state level perspective, there are a few things we can do. The first and most prominent is to do our best to end the failed drug war that makes drug dealing in gangs profitable. Decriminalization of drugs will put these violent gangs out of business, and at the state level, I have a lot of power to pardon nonviolent drug crimes which can force a change of priorities throughout the state.
Banning firearms in Illinois will not stop people from using firearms. It prevents lawful owners from possessing them and creates a black market which encourages illegal activity. I would not have vetoed the Lethal Order Protection Act (HB2354).
The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any major country in the world, and Illinois follows suit. But instead of reducing crime, high rates of imprisonment for non-violent offenses break up families, and that perpetuates crime and poverty. As Governor, I will work to plan the rehabilitation and release of Illinois inmates convicted of drug offenses, getting these people the treatment they need and restoring them to their families and communities.
Helping to bring jobs back to these communities also needs to happen, and this can be done through myriad ways, from lowering property taxes, to cutting red tape for entrepreneurs, cleaning up occupational licensing laws, and lowing burdensome and unneeded regulations. All of these things can work in concert with each other to slow down and and eventually curb violence in our cities.
10. What experiences in your life have most shaped your politics?
11. What accomplishment or achievement of yours are you most proud of?