Meet governor hopeful Chris Kennedy
Name: Chris Kennedy
Office seeking: Governor
City of residence: Kenilworth
Campaign website: kennedyforillinois.com
Why are you running and why should you be nominated? I've seen Illinois many different vantage points, and I see potential everywhere throughout our State. I've worked with agriculture at Archer Daniels Midland. I've run the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau as its chairman and served as a large-scale employer when I was President of the Merchandise Mart. I served as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the University of Illinois. 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, a low-cost, high-quality food service that provides groceries to food deserts in Northern Illinois. I am also currently developing three residential buildings along the Chicago River, which have 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. What we lack is a shared vision and commitment on the part of our state leaders to grow our economy from the bottom up. If we want to restore our economy in Illinois, then we need to reinvest in the people and public sector within our state, and we need to restore public service to public office. We need a progressive income tax to fund our Pre-K-12 schools, and we need to end our reliance to generate public school funding from a property tax system that elected leaders can make money off of; we need a larger MAP Grant program and a College Promise Program to reduce the cost of higher education among Illinois’ job training programs and our public colleges and universities; we need to pass a capital bill with a set aside investment for development in our low-income and under-resourced communities to put people back to work and to revitalize our infrastructure economy; and we need an affordable public health care option that puts Illinois on a path toward a single payer system so everyone can access affordable health care; and, we need a commitment from our elected officials that we will not allow political conflicts of interest to continue that we know perpetuate inequality and erode our ability to instill trust in government among the people of our state. I believe in government. I believe that government has an important role to play in investing in the people that our economy is meant to serve. 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.
What is the most important issue facing the state? How would you approach it? Education tops my list of what I believe are the most important issues in Illinois. I believe that if our state gives the world highly educated students and job seekers, then the world will give us its jobs. The problem is, we haven’t made an investment in education in Illinois. For decades, our state has perpetuated the most inequitable funding system in the country. Despite many of our lawmakers working hard last year to fix our funding formula, we still haven’t put the resources in place to fund the new, fairer model we adopted, and we still rely on local property taxes to fund our public schools. The problem with property tax funding is that we have a broken property tax system in Illinois where the wealthy and well-connected pay very little in taxes for very valuable property, and the poor and middle-class pay significantly higher taxes compared to what their property is worth. This inequality happens because property tax appeals lawyers, some of whom are also elected officials in Illinois, are making money helping the wealthy and well-connected get their tax bills lowered while poor and low-income residents are not as financially able or politically connected to do so. It is our schools and our students who suffer the cost of this broken system because we underfund our schools.
The state's income tax was increased to 4.95 percent in 2017. Would you try to roll it back? Why or why not? And if so, how would you roll it back? We need to move from a flat income tax to a progressive income tax. Tax fairness will help restore our economy and fund our public schools. I am the only candidate with a plan to put a progressive income tax in place right after I am elected. I want to bring to Illinois a lesson from Massachusetts, which is to adopt a tax plan that will provide larger Earned Income Tax Credits to low-income people and extend them to the middle class to provide working families with tax relief. A progressive income tax would then be used to fund our public education system more fairly so that low-income and middle class schools and communities have significantly more resources to educate our children, offer new and expanded learning opportunities, and staff our schools in ways that meet the needs of our students.
Illinois is still running a deficit budget. How should it be balanced? If cuts should be made, what programming cuts should be considered? Illinois has engaged in a practice of borrowing money to pay operating expenses. That is unsustainable and irresponsible. As Governor, I will not sign a budget that uses our credit card to fund the basic functions of government. We must reduce the size of state government and reform our tax code to make it fairer and more progressive. I would pursue a progressive income tax immediately through an approach Illinois should borrow from Massachusetts where we provide tax relief to low-income and middle income residents while raising the income tax on the wealthy. Illinois is also an extreme donor state. Our state ranks at the bottom for per capita federal fiscal spending; in 2013, we received $8,188 per capita, compared to the national average of $9,961 per capita. If Illinois raised our per capita allotment to the national average, we could raise the amount of federal support we receive from $105 billion to $128 billion. We need to operate with a robust coalition working at the state level among local, state and federal leaders to seek out and secure significantly greater federal and philanthropic resources in a coordinated fashion. I will bring that to Illinois.
Campaign funding has been an issue in the last few months. Should there be changes in the state's campaign finance rules? Why or why not? If so, what changes would you want to see? To restore government integrity, we need to introduce real campaign finance reform so we end the arms race in politics that allows only the super-rich to effectively compete. We need to create a small-dollar donor matching system in Illinois that allows campaigns to raise a majority of their funds from small, in-state donors to compete with the campaigns financed by special interests, capitalist-crony donors, and suppliers. The system needs significant leverage to work. A six-to-one match has worked well elsewhere. We can look outward to other cities and states, like New York City and Connecticut who are leading the way.