The 15th Congressional District has lost thousands of jobs over the last 20 years and no one is addressing this devastating trend. My No. 1 goal as your representative in Congress will be to bring back great-paying jobs. Most cities within the district, including Danville, Rantoul and Metropolis have lost between 10 and 18 percent of all jobs. Lost jobs are in every sector including manufacturing, mining, retail and government services. We must reverse this trend by creating new job opportunities, ensuring equal pay for equal work, developing job training programs and pushing for increased wages for the working class in order to build communities with a viable economy in downstate Illinois.
Small businesses are another way to create jobs in the 15th district. Entrepreneurs spur innovation and are the key to strengthen and revitalize downtown areas in cities across the district. Small business low interest loans need to be readily available in communities. Our universities and technical/trade schools need to provide low cost entrepreneur training programs and provide a strong network for small
businesses/entrepreneurship within district communities. Our state needs to invest in the technology infrastructure in order to lure more entrepreneurs to the district.
Attacks on Union wages (The Davis-Bacon Act) and Project Labor Agreements must be vigorously opposed. We must oppose the push for privatization and right-to-work. Unions are the last best hope and operate in the best interest of the working class. Creating an environment where Unions can thrive and grow will transfer power back to the working class.
The current administration’s damaged relationship with Mexico (loss of $13 billion in sales per year to Argentina) and current stand on trade with Cuba will devastate the District’s farming economy starting in 2018.
Farming is often taken for granted in its role of sustaining the economy. Almost 70% of the world’s food production is provided by farms. That figure will likely grow to meet the demands as the population increases. However, to realize this increase much more needs to be done to assist farming communities in exporting their products, generating revenue, increasing community perceptions of their value to the economy, nutrient soil loss, and agricultural engineering to ensure farmers have access to the best technology. Likewise, the family farms can’t always compete with corporate (non-family owned) farmers to purchase larger acreage and field equipment. Another existing issue is the USDA Checkoff Programs for the small farmer. Once voluntary and now mandatory, this program promotes the interests of big producers only, requiring small farmers to pay fees to participate in a program which does not benefit them. The issues facing family farmers are insurmountable without the proper resources.
First, my heart goes out to our coal mining communities. Every miner is painfully aware that coal company bankruptcies and job losses weren’t caused by removing federal protections. Automation within the industry, the boom of natural gas and other forms of clean energy, and declining international demand for coal are the real reasons behind the decline.
The current administration’s removal of federal protections associated with carbon emissions, and the subsequent U.S. removal from the Paris Agreement, is reckless, self-serving, and not in the best interests of our communities, the country, and our planet. As Illinois creates 40 percent of its electricity from coal, responsible use is the path we must continue to take. The current administration’s proposed budget cuts on Workforce Development will have a devastating effect on our coal mining communities. The coal miners and their families will remain my top priority.
District citizens need to know what is going on in Washington, D.C. The people must have a voice to express their hopes and concerns as well as provide feedback on pending legislation affecting them, the district and/or the nation. Ways to accomplish this are to provide open lines of communication through regional town halls, personal and group meetings, telephone calls, surveys, and social media updates. An elected Representative must listen carefully to the collective voices as this communication is the most effective way to drive major changes in society and politics.
The brave Veterans who have put their lives on the line for our freedoms deserve the greatest respect. Veterans having access to top-notch health care to provide for all their medical needs is not negotiable. Similarly, proper funding for mental health issues caused by the trauma of combat and/or lack of appropriate reintegration to communities is a top priority. The waiting lists at VA Hospitals should be a non-issue and every attempt to attract and hire qualified, competent staff should be a top priority. Employment, job creation, and job training for Veterans are instrumental in reintegrating our soldiers back to the civilian world. Veterans who return home after years of being gone from their communities often find a disconnection or fragmentation when attempting to find the needed reintegration services and supports.
No one wants to get sick or injured, but it happens to all of us. Before the ACA, people suffered needlessly because they couldn’t access or afford proper health care. Currently about 49,500 people in District 15 are enrolled in the ACA. The ACA has literally saved many of them from bankruptcy or even saved their life.
Rather than accept a costly, massive tax advantage for the rich that places a significant number of people at risk of losing coverage or losing their insurance, I will work to unite leaders of the health care industries to fix the problems with the ACA. We need to create a stable operating environment for insurance companies to accurately price coverage; not give them permission to choose who they cover and how much they charge.
Full-time workers must not live in poverty that forces them to seek assistance from Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Medicaid. Categorizing these employees as lazy and unworthy of help is completely unjustified. People working hard in a system that underpays employees must change. There are corporations that underpay employees, forcing the rest of the working class to pay additional taxes to support these low-paid workers. For example, last year, Walmart employees alone required $6 billion in assistance programs in order to survive. If you look at productivity increases over the last 30 years, the living wage should be $20.40 per hour; or even $30.50, if based on increases in CEO pay.
The living wage (minimum wage) should be raised to $15 per hour systematically over one year. Raising the living wage will greatly reduce the cost of social safety net programs. More money in the pockets of the working class means they can buy more goods and services; this prompts companies to hire more workers to meet consumer demands.
Social Security is not an entitlement. We pay into the system through our entire working lives and employers match our payment. Congress has raided Social Security funds several times to cover other cost overruns. After that theft, they now try to make the working class feel guilty by slapping the social safety net with the unjustified term of “entitlement.”
There is a simple solution that Congress will not consider because it doesn’t please wealthy donors. Here is the solution: Remove the cap on wages that employers match. This year, employers do not have to pay Social Security on any wages over $118,500. If we remove that cap so all wage levels need to pay the Social Security portion into the system, the program will be funded indefinitely.
We need to seize every opportunity to ensure Illinois moves toward clean energy that protects our water and air. First, we need the jobs that renewable energy will bring to our economy. Whether you believe in global climate change being man-made or not, (I stand with the 97 percent of scientists and the supporting data) we all want clean air and clean water. Removing environmental protections is not acceptable. These protections were put in place to keep people and wildlife safe and healthy.
It will take all of us acting together – workers and entrepreneurs, scientists and citizens, the public and private sector – to address these challenges.
Every child and young adult deserves a quality education, whether that is from a public, private, vocational/trade or university school system. Public schools need to be held accountable to standards, yet have freedom to design curriculum to meet those standards.
The “voucher system” will drain public resources, reduce public schools’ ability to be competitive, and restrict students whose parents cannot afford private schools. Meaningful discussion needs to take place to address any differences between rural and urban schools, whether that be infrastructure issues or appropriate resources. We need to provide teachers with the resources they need – tools, supplies and technology – to prepare students for the future.
Likewise, college needs to be easily accessible and affordable so that upon earning a degree, young adults can earn a living wage without being burdened by significant student loan debt.
People coming together to share goals and ideas is more important now than ever before. Social issues affect us all and cross all cultures and political ideology. There are times when just throwing money at a program doesn’t solve the underlying problems. There are also times when the need is great but the resources are just not available. Serious conversations together with the people whose lives are affected, the people working within those organizations, professionals, and those citizens committed to finding solutions are the best way to come up with bipartisan alternatives. Caring and Sharing not only opens doors of opportunity to people in the community, but also introduces them to other programs and organizations they may not be aware of. It is also important to shine a spotlight on the selfless citizens in each community who share their time and talent to better their community. The launch of this Initiative will take place this fall in Massac County, the southernmost part of our District. It is hoped that this Initiative will result in identifying and sharing best practices that make communities better places to live. The basis and mechanics of this Initiative will be shared with other interested communities.
We need to invest in infrastructure, renewable energy and job training for our district coal miners and other out-of-work constituents. Likewise, we need resources to attract new manufacturing jobs such as those in clean energy and high-tech products. We need long-term agricultural investments and assistance for our rural farming communities. I will fight to ensure our district receives these necessary resources.
First Amendment Rights: Freedom of the press ensures a healthy and honest democracy. Any limitations on this freedom limits our freedom as a nation. We must ensure that all speech is protected even if we strongly disagree with the views of others. Recent attempts to limit 1st Amendment protections must be curtailed.
Second Amendment Rights: 2nd Amendment of the Constitution must be protected. I have a concealed carry permit and I am an amateur marksman. Background checks done quickly and at low cost are necessary wherever guns are sold. If we can stop 100 gun deaths each year because of background checks, it is worth the inconvenience. If a family member is still alive because an offender could not purchase a gun legally, it is worth the inconvenience.
Civil Rights: One of Martin Luther King’s statements is always in the forefront of any civil rights discussion: “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I passionately believe in those words. Civil rights and civil liberties within our Constitution guarantee that people are free from discrimination and treated equally. Although our country has moved forward significantly with civil rights, work remains to be done. I will work to protect the rights of every individual in the district.
We need to find a balance that addresses gun violence in our cities while protecting honest law-abiding citizens’ rights to possess and use firearms. Let’s first enforce the laws already on the books rather than overhaul a system that has not obtained the results we want.
America must be fully engaged on the world stage with a robust State Department using highly-skilled diplomacy negotiations. The teeth of our foreign policy should be sanctions via world consensus with strong swift military action only as a last resort. We have ignored that principle many times and the cost in treasure, both in human capital and dollars, is intolerable.
The system was not broken and did not need to be fixed. The latest changes in net neutrality and the selling of our private data for marketing purposes only benefits internet providers in the form of increased profits, and possibly leads to passive censorship.
We are a nation of immigrants. The immigration laws today do not reflect our values. Law-abiding immigrants struggling for freedom – who work hard and pay their taxes – deserve a path toward citizenship that is efficient and timely instead of the current process that takes approximately two years. Anyone who has had the good fortune to meet these immigrant families quickly gains compassion for them and an understanding of their plight.
I support the DREAM Act and reunification of families. I will fight to restore due process protections to ensure minor offenses such as traffic violations are not a cause for deportation, and provide the resources necessary for immigrants to become citizens.
The classification of marijuana should be lowered from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2. All approved medical uses for marijuana should immediately be made available to patients who need it. As for recreational marijuana, the State of Illinois needs to decide if it wants marijuana revenue to go to drug dealers or to provide financial assistance to our bankrupt state. This is a complex decision that needs greater debate among constituents in the 15th District and state officials.