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November 8, 2016 — Illinois General Election
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Illinois State SenateCandidate for District 31

Photo of Melinda Bush

Melinda Bush

Democratic
State Senator
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Stand up for Lake County citizens
  • Demand fiscal responsibility from government
  • Set an ethical standard for elected officials

Experience

Experience

Profession:State Senator
State Senator, Illinois General Assembly — Elected position (2013–current)
Board Member, Lake County Board — Elected position (2008–2012)
Commissioner, Lake County Forest Preserve — Elected position (2008–2012)
Trustee, Village of Grayslake — Elected position (1990–1994)

Community Activities

Board Member, A Safe Place (2014–2016)

Questions & Answers

Questions from Chicago Sun-Times (15)

Do you support term limits for legislators? Do you support term limits for legislative leaders? Please explain.
Answer from Melinda Bush:

I am a strong supporter of term limits for legislative leaders and the Independent Map initiative. I believe we have a representation problem in Illinois. Voters should be able to pick their elected officials, not the other way around.

Voters’ power in Illinois is limited due to the scarcity of competitive races in the General Election and voters’ inability to limit leaders’ terms through elections. Consolidation of power in the hands of one or two legislative leaders for long periods of time inflates the role of political parties and de-emphasizes the importance of serving one’s constituents. In that vein, if the majority of Illinoisans vote to implement term limits on rank-and-file legislators, I will absolutely support it as well. 

Who do you think bears responsibility for the budget stalemate? Do you have your own ideas on how to resolve it?
Answer from Melinda Bush:

Balancing the budget is a financial problem, but it’s a problem that is solvable. The budget stalemate is a political problem that exists because of extreme partisanship and adherence to the will of party leaders. It is problematic that the budget is a top-down process without much input from rank-and-file members. There was evidence that if the budget process had been more open, both sides would have come to a compromise much sooner. No legislator or leader should see compromise as a failure. We need a better dialogue among all parties, and I also support reforms that decrease partisanship in government such as Independent Maps, term limits on legislative leaders, and campaign finance reform.

A June 3 New York Times op-ed was headlined “Higher Education in Illinois is Dying” because of significant funding cuts. Do you agree or not with Gov. Bruce Rauner that additional large cuts could be necessary?
Answer from Melinda Bush:

I completely disagree with the governor that we need large cuts to higher education. Our higher education system is one of our greatest assets as a state, both for residents who send their kids to our schools and for businesses locating here because of our highly educated workforce. This is a strength that we must build on – not tear down. 

We must also find ways to make college more affordable for middle class families, including funding MAP grants and making community colleges accessible to everyone. We must look at funding education as an investment in Illinois’ future economy. Illinois’ highly-educated workforce sets us apart from other areas in the Midwest, and it is imperative we maintain and improve these economic advantages. Education is one of the most important investments we can make in the state of Illinois to ensure our place as one of the top economies in the United States. 

How should the state’s school funding formula be changed to give all children a better chance at a quality education?
Answer from Melinda Bush:

We absolutely need to modernize our school funding formula. It’s something we have talked about for far too many years without meaningful reform.

First, Illinois needs to meet its constitutional responsibilities and adequately fund education. The Education Funding Advisory Board tells us that we are currently underfunding education by more than $2,000 per student.

Once those obligations are met, additional dollars should be distributed under a new, more equitable formula. We cannot shortchange our students and our State by continuing to operate with one of the least equitable funding systems in the United States. When drafting this formula we must make certain not to harm the suburban schools that are already operating under tight budgets.

With a modernized school funding formula, and adequate state funding we can finally work towards an education system that is not so unreasonably reliant on property taxes.

Without a budget, Illinois is spending much more than it takes in, leading to an ever-growing stack of bills, underfunded services and a growing deficit. What new revenue sources do you support to help fix this problem?
Answer from Melinda Bush:

Illinois families have been through one of the toughest economies in our nation’s history. We must do the best job we can to find revenue sources that don’t require our communities to dip further into their already overburdened pockets.

We need a system to better evaluate government programs, so we can keep the ones that work and cut the ones that don’t.

We must build on Illinois’ strengths to expand our tax base. We must put our highly educated workforce to work by growing our high-tech manufacturing and green energy fields. In order to bring these high-tech companies to Illinois, we have to streamline our licensing process and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens. There was no end to the delays and red tape in my effort to bring a cutting-edge technology manufacturer to Lake County. Our state economic development agencies can do better.

I also support closing corporate tax loopholes and increased transparency for corporate income taxes.

It is our responsibility to ensure we’re being good stewards of taxpayer dollars before anyone considers a tax increase.  

A constitutional amendment is on the ballot that would require money raised for transportation not be spent elsewhere. Do you support this concept? Also, transportation planners say more money is needed for roads and bridges, Metra, CTA rail services and the like. Do you agree and, if so, where would you get the funding?
Answer from Melinda Bush:

Yes. A strong economy does not exist without a strong infrastructure. Our infrastructure needs modernization and safety upgrades, and Illinois’ infrastructure can no longer afford budgetary sweeps of funds that enable this work. The transportation lockbox will ensure our infrastructure projects can move forward. 

In the last session, the governor and Legislature turned their attention away from pension reform. What initiatives do you support to reduce the costs of pensions?
Answer from Melinda Bush:

After the Illinois Supreme Court ruling made clear previous legislation illegally diminished pensions, it is absolutely clear that unilateral efforts won’t work. The only way to make real progress is to sit down with all parties at the table, identify the problem, and work towards constitutional solutions everyone can live with.

I was a chief co-sponsor of SB 2404, which was a negotiated compromise, which gave state employees a choice between compounded cost of living increases or health care and would have saved Illinois billions. I am interested in revisiting parts of this legislation. 

Do you support measures to reduce Illinois’ prison population and divert more money into community-based services?
Answer from Melinda Bush:

Yes. This has been a welcome display of bipartisan work. Reducing our prison population can save Illinois money while still serving justice and deterring crime. Non-violent drug offenders can, and should be diverted into mental health or drug rehab programs. Electronic monitoring and home confinement can also be used successfully for non-violent drug offenders. We must also take steps to reduce recidivism by ensuring jobs are available for recently released individuals. An important piece of this work must begin earlier and include investing in community-oriented training for our police.

There are calls to reform the state’s civil asset forfeiture system, which allows police and prosecutors to seize and take – permanently – property from someone who has not been convicted of a crime? What is your view?
Answer from Melinda Bush:

I am absolutely supportive of reform. It is patently unfair that a person who has never been convicted of a crime can have their property permanently seized. I understand that civil forfeiture has been used as a tool to combat major drug trafficking operations, so I would welcome feedback from police on how reforms could be made that would not hinder the police’s ability to conduct these types of investigations. 

Do you support allowing transgender persons born in Illinois to change the gender marker on their birth certificate without undergoing surgery first?
Answer from Melinda Bush:

Transgender rights issues are human rights issues. Individuals should have ID documents that accurately reflect their gender identity; not having these documents can leave transgender people vulnerable to bigotry and inequity. Sex-reassignment surgery is not always possible and is often cost-prohibitive. I support SB 6073, which allows transgender individuals to correct their birth certificate if they have undergone clinically appropriate treatment. 

 

What is your view on so-called “death with dignity” — physician-assisted suicide — which has become a contentious issue in other states? California’s End of Life Option Act took effect on June 9.
Answer from Melinda Bush:

This is a sensitive and very personal issue that requires a lot of conversation and thought. In the last days of someone’s life, when they are in extreme pain, I want them and their families to have choices. I do not have a firm position yet, but the more information I learn over time the more I lean towards ensuring that terminally-ill patients can die with dignity. I do know that I would ask constituents throughout my district how they felt before casting a vote on the issue. 

What measures do you support to reduce levels of gun violence?
Answer from Melinda Bush:

As a gun owner, I support the legal right of individuals to own guns. However, with the seemingly endless incidents of gun violence in Chicago and mass shootings nationwide, we must make some commonsense changes to our gun laws. We must also be clear that just because we have conversations about gun control doesn’t mean that we want to take away anyone’s guns. We must get past inflated rhetoric to a point where we can have real conversations about ways to fix these problems.   

There are some commonsense restrictions that will not limit an individual who is legally entitled to own a gun, but can keep our communities safer. I believe we should limit straw gun purchases and tighten our background checks. We should also take steps to ensure mentally ill individuals cannot purchase firearms in order to do harm and invest further in our mental health systems. I would also increase penalties for people who bring guns in from out of state to circumvent Illinois law, and I recently sponsored legislation signed into law that amends the Illinois Criminal Code to create the offense of ‘firearms trafficking.”

A number of states and local jurisdictions (including Chicago) have recently increased the minimum wage. Do you support or oppose a statewide increase in the minimum wage? If so, what should the new minimum be, and by when? Should local jurisdictions be prohibited from passing their own minimum wage laws?
Answer from Melinda Bush:

I was a strong supporter of SB 2145, which increased the minimum wage $.50 a year over a four-year period, until it reached $11 an hour.

I still believe in the tenets of that bill; however, I would also support raising the minimum wage to meet rises in the cost of living. Instead of this issue being a political football every election season, we should provide for automatic increases to the minimum wage tied to CPI or another economic indicator, which would allow people to earn a living wage without having to pass an additional law every year.

I believe local jurisdictions should be able to pass a minimum wage that’s appropriate for their cost of living.

In the past couple of legislative sessions, there has been a proposal to add a 1 cent tax on all sugar-sweetened beverages sold in Illinois. Do you support or oppose such a measure, and why?
Answer from Melinda Bush:

I don’t support a beverage tax.  It won’t deter people from drinking sweetened beverages or act as a real solution to revenue problems. It will just be a burden on businesses and an additional tax on families. 

In recent years, there has been a growing push to increase the development and use of renewable energy sources. Do you support or oppose these preferences?
Answer from Melinda Bush:

I am a strong supporter of renewable energy.  I’m a sponsor of the Clean Jobs Bill that would increase our share of renewable energy to 35% by 2030, including wind and solar.

Clean energy makes sense for our environment and also makes sense for our economy.  By strengthening efficiency and renewable energy laws, we can provide lower energy costs while generating tens of thousands of new jobs.  Most importantly, Illinois must position itself as a leader in renewable energy in order to attract the jobs of the future and provide a sustainable energy source for generations to come.  The Clean Jobs Bill puts Illinois in a position to do just that.

Videos (3)

— August 29, 2016 Campaign

This is a video of testimonials collected from people around the 31st Senate District.

— August 29, 2016 Campaign

Senator Bush's 2016 Announcement video.

— October 18, 2016 Chicago Sun-Times

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