Office sought: Illinois State Senate, District 10
Family: Married with two children
Education: JD from John Marshall Law; bachelor’s from Boston College
Civic involvement: Past coach for Norridge Little League Baseball; member of Chicago Society; member of Knights of Columbus; member of Jefferson Park Forward
Elected offices held: 19th District state representative, 2013-2019; Norridge village trustee, 1999-2011; Norwood Park township trustee, 1993-1997
Incumbent? If yes, when were first elected: Appointed June 2019
Facebook: State Senator Robert Martwick
Questions and Answers
1. What is your position on placing a ‘Fair Maps’ amendment on the November ballot? If the amendment makes the ballot after the primary, will you support it? Why or why not?
Support. Since the beginning of my career I have supported efforts for an independent mapmaking commission. Gerrymandering has been part and parcel of our democracy since its inception. However, it is clear that citizens in our state want a mapmaking process that is independent of the direct influence of the politicians who control it. Gerrymandering occurs in most states and is most prolific in Republican states.
However, I recognize that the time has come for this initiative and Illinois must lead the way. As a part of any effort, I would push to ensure that there are safeguards to ensure that every elected legislative body has adequate minority participation.
2. What are the most important components that should be included in legislative ethics reform? What will you do to help them come to pass?
Recently, three legislators have been charged with breaking the law. However, logic dictates that there is no new law that can be passed that will stop those who intend to break laws. We must be cognizant of the nature of the problem and what we must do to address corruption and conflicts of interest in order to restore confidence in government.
Ethics reform must be real and not window dressing designed to assuage the masses. Illinois must begin by limiting conflicts of interest. Every citizen in a democracy has a conflict of interest. As such, a full-time legislature (like Congress), where outside employment is prohibited, is the only way to effectively eliminate conflicts.
I would support this measure, but the politics of “increasing pay” would make this difficult to achieve. If we continue to permit legislators to earn outside income, we must have a robust system of disclosure to ensure that constituents are aware of both apparent and potential conflicts so that constituents can decide if those conflicts rise to the level of concern so that they can exercise their power through the course of election. One redline: There should be a ban on lobbying as no one should be able to earn a salary from one government while using their influence to lobby another government.
3. What should the state do to address the still-growing problems with its key pension programs?
Illinois should treat the “pension problem” as what it actually is: A debt problem. In 2010 Illinois passed Tier 2 pension reform and as a result, every state worker, teacher, judge and state university employee is part of new sustainable pension system that has both dramatically lower benefits than the previous system, and dramatically lower costs. In many cases, the entire cost of the benefit is paid for by the employee contribution (meaning, the state, or taxpayer has no cost).
The problem is not the pension system that is currently offered, but rather the debt that we owe to the old system. I will continue the work I did as chairman of the House Committee on Personnel and Pensions. I support an expansion of constitutionally permissible reforms based on the concept of a true consideration model. I worked with Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) on a series of “buyouts.” These buyouts give recent retirees and inactive members the option of selling a portion of their benefits to the state in exchange for a discounted cash payment. These plans have been effective and are on track to save the state hundreds of millions of dollars, without unilaterally stripping benefits from retirees.
Additionally, I advanced supported efforts to consolidate local pension plans to save administrative costs and leverage assets for better returns. I have been and continue to support asset transfers as a tool to improve funded liabilities.
I also support and have been personally working on a plan to re-amortize the repayment of the pension debt so as to ensure that Illinois pays back this debt at the greatest savings to the taxpayer without “kicking the can” to future generations.
Finally, we must address the shortcomings of the Tier 2 system. There is ample evidence to suggest that retirement provided to Tier 2 retirees may, in many instances, be insufficient to satisfy the provisions of the federal safe harbor provision. If this happens, Illinois will be responsible for retroactively providing social security benefits to these employees. This would be another financial disaster that Illinois simply cannot withstand.
We can and must avoid this by making minor reforms to the Tier 2 system by allowing the wage cap to match the growth of the Social Security wage cap. Additionally, in many instances where the Tier 2 benefit does satisfy safe harbor, it will still be woefully insufficient alone to provide for that employee in retirement. This creates the potential that large swaths of public sector retirees may be applying for public assistance in order to make ends meet in their retirement, further burdening our budget and putting upward pressure on taxes.
4. Describe at least two circumstances in which you have shown or would show a willingness and capacity to act independently of the direction or demands of party leadership. Do you support term limits for majority and minority leaders in both chambers?
1. Pension Reform. In 2013, the General Assembly passed legislation that unilaterally diminished pension benefits to produce budget savings and debt reduction. Speaker Madigan was the driving force behind this initiative and I was a freshman legislator. He lobbied me very very hard to support this initiative. I told him that I did not believe that reneging on our promise was the best path forward and that it was my firm belief that this measure was unconstitutional. The measure passed and was found unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court.
2. Elected School Board for CPS. Five years ago I took up a measure to create an elected school board for Chicago schools. I was told that no one in leadership supported this. Over the course of the last five years, despite aggressive opposition from former Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Senate President John Cullerton, I continued to lobby for and advance that measure. I expect it to finally pass this year.
3. Property Tax Freeze. During the Rauner budget Impasse, the legislature voted 17 times to freeze property taxes. Nearly every Democrat voted for this measure while nearly every Republican voted present. Almost no one voted no. This was indicative of the complete nonsense and political gamesmanship that consumed and paralyzed the general assembly at the time. I knew that the measures were nonsense, but worse played into a notion that politicians in Springfield were somehow more responsible than
locally elected officials. I was one of the few in the General Assembly who voted no every single time.
5. What should lawmakers be doing to stem out-migration from Illinois?
The vast majority of residents leaving Illinois are middle, working class and poor who are overburdened by an exceptionally regressive system of taxation. Illinois has the eighth most regressive tax system in the country, while our spending on education and social services ranks at the bottom.
When financial problems reach a critical stage, the state has regularly employed the same “solution”: increasing taxes and fees that disproportionally burden the middle class while simultaneously cutting spending on programs and services, that provide opportunities for that same middle class. Large cuts at the state level forces local governments to try to fill the gap, causing large increases in property taxes, once again squeezing those most burdened by property taxes: middle, working-class and poor.
Illinois is a wonderful state with unmatched resources. We are THE hub for transportation, energy and education. Chicago is a world-class city with amazing culture and beauty.
In order to stop the out-migration and entice people to choose Illinois, we must add balance to our unfair tax system, properly and responsibly address our debt and reinvest in K-12 education, restore the world-class reputation of our state universities, care for seniors and those living with disabilities, and provide a reliable safety net. The passage of the fair tax would raise the revenues needed to balance budgets while simultaneously providing tax rate relief for families earning $300,000 per year or less.
The fair tax will not solve our problems overnight, but it will provide a structure that will allow revenue growth to match our commitments so that Illinois can properly fund education, reduce property taxes and pay our debt service, while reinvesting in programs that will help middle and working class families thrive, growing our economy and putting the state on a long term path to prosperity.
6. Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should government be taking to address the issue?
Yes and this is one of the most dire long term issues that we as a people face. Illinois cannot wait for the federal government to wake up and begin protecting the environment. We must act on our own and that should begin by unilaterally following the direction of Paris Agreement, moving away from fossil fuels to a more robust renewable energy portfolio and passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act.
7. 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?
If the Fair Tax passes, it will reduce tax rates for 97% of Illinoisans. This is guaranteed, because the rate structure that would accompany the passage of the constitutional amendment, has already been passed into law. Voters will know what they are getting. Opponents of the Fair Tax often falsely assert that a graduated rate structure will make it easier to raise rates on the middle class. That is patently false. Rates certainly can change, but there is NOTHING about the Fair Tax that would make it any easier to raise rates than the current flat tax.
Our flat tax structure has been in existence for 50 years and the rates have been raised 4 times. No one ever wants to raise rates and any changes going forward will be very difficult. However, it is wrong to compare the Fair Tax to our current 4.95% flat tax. That is comparing a solution to a problem. The fair tax will eliminate our structural debt, while allowing us to live up to our commitment to increase funding for education and maintain a stable safety net, while providing tax relief for 97% of Illinoisans. The current flat tax does not.
In fact, the flat rate needed to solve our problems is currently 6.25% and that is going up every day. We simply must solve our financial problems. If we do not we will guarantee bigger and bigger tax increases in the future. The only question is should we solve our problems with a Fair Tax rate structure that gives relief to the bottom 97%, or will we force the state to raises taxes on everyone, including the middle, working class and working poor, who are already far too overburdened?
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March 3, 2020 at 01:16AM