Name: Grayson “Kash” Jackson
Town of residence: Antioch
Office sought: Governor of Illinois
1. Without action, Illinois' obligations to its five pension funds are expected to top $10 billion by the 2023 fiscal year. What is your plan to help the state with this millstone of debt?
A bankrupt state pays no pensions. When Section 5 of Article XIII was written, Illinois had far fewer employees and Section 5 was meant to insure that once the workers earned a pension, they would receive it. In 1970, there was not the severe administrative bloating that we have today.
I would propose the legislature repeal Section 5 of Article XIII and replace it with a 403(b) style retirement program. If you are over 42.5 years of at this time, you may keep the pension and if you are under 42.5 years, you and all new hires will be moved to or join the 403(b) retirement program. I would also like to cut back on the administrative positions in every branch of government employment when possible.
I would change the formula for administration pensions to a percentage based on the average first four years of salary. This would eliminate the policy of pension spiking in the last four years. I will propose a constitutional amendment in the legislature to cap defined benefit plan payouts of all administrative positions and elected officials at $100,000 per year as it is for all state university football and basketball coaches now. I do not support re-amortizing debt as that will only kick the can further down the road. This issue needs immediate action.
2. What will you do as governor to reduce the property tax burden on homeowners?
I want to loosen restrictions so that we can start earning money in other ways to handle our expenses, while at the same time cutting those expenses down.
There are numerous ways to raise money without raising or levying new taxes that we want to employ to help Illinois pay for its obligations. For example, we want to lease naming rights to infrastructure. Many firms pay tens of millions to lease the names of stadiums that are only used for part of the year. Companies would be more than willing to spend good money for the naming rights for major bridges and roadways. This would get their name mentioned hundreds of times every day on the radio during rush hour, and would thus make it a worthy investment for many businesses.
Legalizing marijuana would raise revenue even before new taxes are added because the existing related sales and income taxes would bring in a lot of money. Sales taxes alone before additional taxes would bring in around $180 million a year based on Colorado’s numbers. We would also save money from not having to incarcerate so many people as we have over the years.
We will require that healthcare providers provide simple, transparent pricing. Medicaid reform that gives recipients a government provided HSA to use before falling back on traditional Medicaid will lower costs by keeping recipients away from the emergency room and give an incentive to save money. First, we will require that healthcare providers provide simple, transparent pricing so that shopping around will be possible. We’ll also provide a website to help people including Medicaid recipients find low cost treatments and care via price comparisons and quality ratings. This will improve the care that recipients receive while saving the state a lot of money in Medicaid expenses.
3. Income taxes on wage earners increased 32 percent in 2017. What will be the future of the income tax under your administration?
In general, I do not support a graduated income tax of any kind. Illinois should maintain a fair economic environment that does not penalize success and encourages businesses and citizens to invest here.
I would, however, support a 100% income tax cut for families below the poverty line. This would not require an amendment to the Illinois Constitution. Households under the federal poverty level guidelines would receive a personal deduction at 100% of the poverty level. This deduction would also be available to households until 200% of the poverty level, tapering off so as not to create a “welfare trap.” Cutting taxes for families below the poverty line will let them keep more of their own income, helping them to rise out of poverty and reducing their dependence on welfare.
4. Should marijuana be legalized for recreational use in Illinois? If so, how would you do it and why? If not, why not?
Yes, we should legalize cannabis across the board for economic reasons and, more importantly, for ethical reasons.
We have already taken steps to legalize medical marijuana in Illinois, and just recently passed legislation opening the market for industrial hemp to be grown and cultivated in Illinois, which can be used for everything from fuel to construction. Medical marijuana is playing a big part in helping people get off of prescription painkillers, which is currently at the center of attention of the opioid crisis around the country. It helps cancer patients, can be used to treat multiple forms of physical pain, and is even being used to help veterans with PTSD.
I also find it morally unacceptable to lock people up in prison for using cannabis as a recreational drug - something that is less harmful than alcohol and has never killed anyone. Prohibition doesn’t work, and only creates a violent black market operated by gangs.
As for economics reasons, while I already believe taxes are too high in Illinois as it is, a tax on cannabis products could help fill some of the gaps in our budget and help us get caught up on some of our backlog of bills. By legalizing this, we can put more people to work in a new and growing market in our state, bring in revenue, and also cut back on spending costs of incarceration and drug law enforcement.
5. Illinois' higher education spending per student declined 37 percent from 2008 to 2017, and many college-bound students are choosing out-of-state schools because they offer more competitive tuition. What can be done to combat this problem?
According to the Illinois Policy Institute in an article written in 2017, the reason that tuition costs are astronomical are because of the hikes being implemented to be able to ensure that professors and other college administration receive their promised pensions. The University of Illinois’ tuition and fees are now almost $6,000 higher than both Indiana University’s and the University of Wisconsin’s, and nearly $8,000 higher than the University of Iowa’s. This situation provides an easy option for students who are looking for affordable schooling. They have no need to stay in state when other states are offering competitive programs at more affordable costs.
The solution is to reduce administration overhead, put the remaining administration and staff on 401k retirement funds, and put any extra funding back into scholarship or grant opportunities for students in need. While we could hope this would cause tuition rates to drop, Illinois has a poor reputation for removing taxes or lowering costs. Therefore, the extra money would go into programs to alleviate funding for students who might not be able to go to college or universities.
6. Please explain your position on term limits for lawmakers. If you support term limits, how will you work to implement them?
Service in a public office should not become a career. Too often, we’ve seen our elected officials serving for astoundingly long terms in office, effectively blocking the introduction of new minds and new ideas to solve the problems which these career politicians have created.
They’ve moved from doing what is best for the people of Illinois to what is best for keeping themselves in power. Our state is being held in a stranglehold and bled dry by those who hold this power. It has led to a disenfranchisement of Illinois voters and is part of the reason for the exodus of residents Illinois now faces.
I am strongly in favor of term limits, and would like to work with the legislature to make that happen; we’ve seen how close it came in 2017. As governor, I would lead by example by limiting myself to two terms just as many other states have in place, and would encourage and support efforts in our state to apply term limits to all branches of our government.
7. Do you support putting the drawing of state legislative and congressional districts in the hands of an independent body rather than a partisan political group? How can this be achieved in Illinois?
Gerrymandering is an unacceptable practice that stacks the odds in favor of one group or another. It allows politicians to choose their voters, as opposed to voters choosing the politicians, destroying the integrity of our elections, and taking away the power of our voices. Districts should be drawn according to population, with no bias or political agenda.
The Independent Map Amendment was something that unfortunately was never given the chance to be put before the voters; it would have created a multistage redistricting process to appoint an 11-member commission to redraw the district maps of Illinois in a much more balanced and transparent manner. I would like to see the voters have a say in how their districts are drawn, and would support the Independent Map Amendment if given another chance.
8. What will your administration do to improve the business climate and job creation in areas outside the city of Chicago?
Most of this will entail a lot of small reforms. For example, we will end occupational licensing requirements that have nothing to do with the work that a person wishes to perform. After all, a CPA (Certified Public Account) isn’t likely to use much chemistry or history in the accounting field. More importantly, if a job is trivial and safe enough that it’s something that you might ask your friend to do, then a license should not be required. Getting rid of unnecessary barriers allows more people to enter the field, improving employment rates.
Another reform would be to allow firms to allow the option of high deductible workers compensation plans. Of course, it’s critical that they always be able to pay so proof of ability to pay is a requirement to use this plan. The money should be tied up in an account or a lender should have credit ready to be lent in the event that money is needed to care for an injured employee. This will allow employers who take extra care to keep their employees safe to be financially rewarded with lower worker’s compensation insurance premiums.
9. How will your administration work to support rural residents and the agribusiness community?
The first step is to legalize recreational marijuana. This will provide another option of a cash crop for farmers to grow. The second is to enact “Farmer Freedom” legislation. It would be modeled after Wyoming’s highly successful “Food Freedom” law. It would significantly reduce both the federal and state regulatory burden of farm-to-table businesses. The food cannot leave Illinois and the packaging must clearly be labeled that it’s not fully compliant with all of the laws that some people may be used to or otherwise expecting. This should allow farmers to expand and find alternative revenue streams using their crops as well as lowering some of their costs.
10. Illinois has many more units of local government than any other state. Is local government consolidation be a priority for you? If so, how will your administration help accomplish this goal?
One option I talk about a lot is our ability to cut state spending by reducing the size of government. My first priority is to consolidate the nearly 7,000 units of local government that are devouring tremendous revenue. Doing so will provide immediate property tax relief and begin to mend our state’s general fund.
This includes townships, which we are already seeing on the ballot in some places in the state. With over 1,400 townships, there are plenty of examples of multiple government doing the same work, and by consolidating townships, we can save money both on those costs and the expensive pensions that come with those jobs. In 2016, the Belleville City Council voted to dissolve Belleville Township and roll those same services into the city, and it wound up saving taxpayers roughly $250k annually. I would love to see that replicated across the state.
Sometimes consolidation can look like total elimination of a redundant office. As a personal victory, the McLean County Libertarian Party started an initiative to get a referendum item on the ballot this November to eliminate the Bloomington Election Commission, which does the job that the already existing county clerk’s office handles. The local Republican party hopped on board a few months ago to help ensure this was on the ballot. People will have choices are their ballots this year in Illinois to eliminate or consolidate redundant government.