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WGLT's reporting on the November 2020 election cycle.

Candidate Questionnaire: Karla Bailey-Smith

Karla Bailey-Smith

These responses were submitted by Karla Bailey-Smith, the Democratic candidate for the 88th House District. See more candidate responses.

Why do you want to represent the 88th House District?

Because our district deserves a Representative who is active and engaged in the community, and understands the needs of the people. I care about us and our future. I want to listen to people's concerns and advocate for them. We need more moms in Springfield, and more people with different lived experiences making the important decisions about the future of our state.

COVID-19 will be part of our lives in 2021 and beyond. What should be the next General Assembly’s top priorities related to the pandemic?

We need to find ways to pause rent and mortgage payments for those left without jobs. People should not be evicted, and their utilities should be kept on. Homelessness and foreclosures would put a greater burden on our economy and increase risk of viral spread with overcrowding in homeless shelters. We need to implement widespread testing because the virus is spreading by people who are asymptomatic.

Do you think support shifting to a progressive/graduated income tax? Why or why not?

I do support the Fair Tax. Illinois is one of only a few states that have a regressive tax, rather than a progressive tax that mirrors the tax brackets we use for our federal taxes. Illinois is still suffering from the budget impasse during the Rauner administration, and areas such as social services and education have not yet recovered. The Fair Tax only raises taxes on people making $250,000 or more, and most people will see their taxes go down. This additional funding for education will allow for property tax relief, because the state should bear more of the cost for our public education, not our home owners.

People in Illinois are already hurting because of the pandemic, and if the Fair Tax is NOT passed, lawmakers will have tough decisions on what to cut to get close to a balanced budget.

What additional measures can the next General Assembly take to spur economic development, specifically the small businesses and entrepreneurs?

Many of our small businesses were left out of the PPP loan programs, and the federal money that was later used for grants came too late to save some of our beloved small businesses. We can continue to prioritize loans and grants to keep our small businesses open, and freezing rent and mortgages for them can make staying open possible. The General Assembly should propose TIFs that are specifically for small businesses, and we can prioritize this in the future. We are giving away too many tax revenue dollars to large corporations that could afford to pay it, and they don't contribute to keeping money in our community the way that small businesses do.

Illinois public schools are currently funded in large part by local property taxes. Should that school funding model continue, or would you like to see changes?

Passing the Fair Tax amendment can provide more funding for public education, and ease the property tax burden. We currently have a very unfair system that allows affluent areas to have schools with robust arts and extracurricular programs, while other schools suffer with decaying buildings and not even the basics they need to provide a good education. Illinois needs to develop and equitable funding model. The Fair Tax will help support this, but we also need to work together to legislate these changes. Charter schools should be phased out, and school vouchers and lotteries discouraged, because that "saves" just a few people and doesn't solve any problems.

Should Illinois have term limits for lawmakers and/or legislative leaders? Why or why not?

Yes. I think there should be term limits, especially on legislative leaders. Power over a long period of time is not healthy for either the lawmakers or the leaders. Many become open to corruptible practices, and others lose connection with the people they are meant to serve.

This summer has shown us again that racism and discrimination is alive and well in the U.S. What should be the state government’s role in addressing it?

We need to require accurate teaching of American history, because the current teachings often gloss over the treatment and systemic oppression of BIPOC. This will help future generations. We should also implement implicit bias training for police, educators, social workers, and so on to begin changing attitudes and understanding of the current generation of people in places of power, because that generation was educated with textbooks that did not accurately portray the history and treatment of BIPOC in the USA. We need to implement deescalation training for all police, and start phasing in more education requirements for police. It should not be harder to get a food service certificate than it is to become a police officer. We need to re imagine policing. Imagine if a social worker were called for a mental health issue, for a homeless person, or for a sex worker. Imagine a demilitarized police. Imagine more money invested in housing the homeless and programs to engage and occupy our youth.

We should encourage integrated housing, and housing policies need to uphold nuclear families and not encourage women to separate from their partners so they can get prioritized public housing as a single mother. The current policies place women in situations where they have to chose affordable housing without their partner or husband.

We need to support neglected schools and move away from a property tax based funding model for education, which creates affluent schools with many robust programs and drastically underfunded schools in low income areas, which are often predominantly people of color.

Our justice system is overtly racist. People of color are over policed, and more likely to get longer sentences. We need to look at what people are locked up for, and consider the economic and social implications of incarceration for non violent offences. We need to decriminalize addiction and "crimes" of poverty, as well as providing mental health services rather than incarcerating people for behaviors and actions they cannot control without proper medical attention and supervision.

What additional ethics reform measures would you support in the next General Assembly?

The ethics reforms proposed by a group of Democratic lawmakers address a broad range of concerns. At this time, I am not aware of an additional reform that is necessary. I support the current reform proposals. A comment I often get from traditional Republicans is that Illinois Democrats are crooks. I am not a politician. I am a mom, a small business owner, and an advocate, and I want the job of advocating for the people of our district. I will do this job honestly.

Quality childcare is expensive and can be hard to find. What additional steps should the General Assembly take to make quality childcare more accessible to working parents?

Extensive studies show that women are overwhelmingly disenfranchised by the lack of affordable child care, losing ground in promotional capacities as well as earning power. American businesses lose money, too, when their employees face child care challenges. Much of this support needs to come form the Federal Government, and if the Child Care for Working Families Act (CCWFA) is passed, it would increase access to reliable, affordable child care for most low- and middle-income families, limiting families’ child care payments to 7 percent of their incomes on a sliding scale.

When I lived in the the UK, I received a child tax credit, which was money deposited into my account every month, to help with expenses due to having a child. Additionally, I was given an incentive to work, because my tax credit actually increased when I went back to work. I hope that we can look at some of these options in Illinois, as well as offering universal pre-K.

A longer term, creative solution (post pandemic) would be to integrate child care and after school care with retirement and assisted living centers. Other countries still live with multiple generations in one home, which encourages understanding and respect across generations. Imagine if we bused kids to retirement homes after school, where they could get homework help or play games with our retired college professors! And the kids can help the older folks with their technology!

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