Health care is a right. I believe every American should have access to reliable and affordable health care.
Today, the 14th district is represented by a congressman who supports the Trump Administration’s attempts to sabotage and destroy the Affordable Care Act. In May 2017, Congressman Hultgren voted to:
- Take health care coverage from 23 million Americans, including over 40,000 of his own constituents
- Allow insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions
- Force seniors relying on Medicare and living on a fixed income to pay thousands of dollars in an age tax
- Leave thousands of children and people with disabilities without care by gutting Medicaid
In Congress, instead of trying to take my neighbors’ health care, I’ll work to protect and stabilize Obamacare while supporting efforts to build beyond it. I believe we need a better healthcare system that lowers costs, expands coverage, and secures quality. There are a few ideas we can do make that happen:
- Allow Americans near retirement age to buy into Medicare. With a Medicare buy-in, Americans near retirement age can secure financial assistance just as their healthcare costs increase while their incomes often decline and become fixed. Allowing these Americans to buy into Medicare also makes the Medicare pool younger, healthier, and more cost effective.
- Enact a low-cost public option. By enacting a low-cost public option, private insurers would have to find ways to lower costs on their overly-expensive healthcare plans. By being forced to compete against a low-cost public option, healthcare costs for all consumers would be lowered, making health care truly accessible to all Americans for the first time.
- Allow the federal government to negotiate drug prices. Today, the United States Veterans Administration negotiates drug prices for its patients. This negotiation often results in the V.A.’s patients paying substantially lower drug prices. Just as the V.A. already negotiates lower drug prices for its patients, the federal government should do the same for all Americans.
Like many communities across the country, many families here in the 14th district still worry about poor job security and low wages. Combating structural changes in our economy by ensuring our local workforce is prepared for the jobs of the 21st century is the most critical challenge our workforce faces today.
In Congress, ensuring the 14th district has stable and good-paying jobs will always be a personal priority. I think there are solutions to these issues that are popular among Democrats and Republicans that will make meaningful differences in the 14th district. These are a few ideas:
- Invest in education, including trade schools. The jobs of the 21st century often require education beyond a high school diploma. For many Americans, this will mean earning a bachelor’s degree at a four-year university. To that end, we should ensure that more Americans are able to afford a four-year education by expanding Pell Grants and lowering federal student loan interest rates. But earning a bachelor’s degree is not the only way to learn the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a 21st century economy. Community colleges and trade schools are terrific institutions our government can invest in to ensure all our children are getting the knowledge and skills they need to compete.
- Raise the minimum wage. It’s been nearly a decade since Congress raised the minimum wage to $7.25/hour. In Illinois, the minimum wage stands at $8.25/hour. Minimum wages that have not kept up with the costs of living mean that many Americans can work a 40-hour week and still live in poverty. When working Americans don’t have money to spend and are forced to rely on social services to get by, our economy doesn’t grow. Meanwhile, states and localities that have raised the minimum wage since Congress last acted in 2009 have seen greater economic growth than those which haven’t acted. We should seize on that example and raise the minimum wage.
- Invest in infrastructure projects. Passing a plan to rebuild and expand our roads, bridges, railways, waterways, power sources, and telecommunications systems will create good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced. Most importantly, this long overdue overhaul will give the American economy the modern tools it needs to succeed in the 21st century.
- End the assault on organized labor. A simple rule that has not failed me yet is, “If it’s good for the middle class, it’s good for the economy.” One of the best things our leaders can do for the middle class (and thus the economy) is support a strong labor movement. Growing up, my mom was a union teacher. Today, my wife is also a union teacher. Their union membership has made all the difference in the world by giving them the power to collectively negotiate their salary and secure benefits that last into retirement. The labor movement built and sustained the middle class for decades after World War II. We need to stop the assault of labor at both the federal and state level.
It’s no secret that the middle class is getting crushed. For decades, reckless tax policy has expanded income inequality by deliberately distributing wealth to the rich at the expense of the rest. While the middle class endures its fourth straight decade of stagnant wages, those super wealthy Americans and big corporations are reaping in record profits. This has to change.
- Raise taxes on the middle class to pay for tax cuts for the richest Americans
- Substantially lower taxes on huge corporations without closing loopholes
- Eliminate the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction, lowering home prices in the 14th district by as much as 10 percent
- Add well over $1 trillion to the federal deficit
This is not the fiscal prudence Republicans promised Americans. In Congress, I’ll work to deliver a tax plan that serves the middle class and ensures the wealthiest Americans are paying their fair share. There are a few things we can do to make that happen:
- Stop buying into trickle-down. For the last four decades, Republicans have promised that huge tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans would grow the economy for all of us. But four decades and four Republican tax cuts later, we’re still waiting for that growth in the middle class. We shouldn’t be raising taxes on the middle class to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy, we should be cutting taxes for the middle class.
- Restore middle class spending power. The middle class is the engine of the American economy. By cutting taxes on middle class Americans, we can restore their spending power and grow the economy more equitably. History tells us that when the middle class has spending power, the economy grows for everyone; not just the richest few.
- Restore the SALT deduction. Illinois is a highly-taxed state, and because of the state’s own tax structure, the heaviest tax burden often falls on the middle class. Middle class Illinoisans should not be punished with higher taxes and lower home values just for living in Illinois. The 14th district needs a congressman who will fight to restore the SALT deduction.
Protecting the Environment
The past year has brought some of the most destructive natural disasters in American history. Hurricane Harvey drowned Houston and eastern Texas in five feet of rain for a week. Days later, Hurricane Irma leveled Puerto Rico and pounded into Florida shortly after. Wildfires continue to rage across the American west. In addition, 2017 was the second hottest year on record; outpaced only by 2016. The science is clear, climate change is here and no amount of denial will change that.
The 14th district is home to one of America’s greatest laboratories, Fermilab, and near another, Argonne National Laboratory. Nonetheless, it is represented by one of Congress’s leading science-deniers. Despite the conclusions of 97 percent of climate scientists, Congressman Hultgren does not believe human activity causes climate change. As a result, he has put up one of the worst environmental records in Congress. Now, a key retirement puts Congressman Hultgren in line to become chair of the House science committee. We cannot allow that.
The 14th district deserves a congressman who believes in the science of climate change and is working to protect the environment. Here are my ideas for a greener America:
- American leadership on clean energy. As an American-born and -trained engineer, I can’t tell you how disheartening it is to hear the new President of France encourage American scientists and engineers to move to France to work on clean energy research. America should be making the investments necessary to lead the world in clean energy research. Before I was Mayor of Montgomery, I worked on this issue on a local level when I worked with the village zoning board to change our laws so Montgomery residents could install solar panels and wind turbines on their property.
- Rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement. President Trump and Congressman Hultgren’s denial of science has no greater example than pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. This is a decision that willfully ignores science placing the planet’s future and American global leadership at risk. Without our leadership, countries like China will gladly take the lead in developing clean energy technologies. As Mayor of Montgomery, I decided to sign on as a Climate Mayor by promising that Montgomery will continue to live up to the climate goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. In December, I also joined 50 mayors from around the world when I signed the Chicago Climate Charter. In Congress, I will be an environmental leader so we can leave the planet healthier and safer for our children.
- Emphasizing conservation. The Trump Administration has lead an assault on America’s greatest conservation effort: the National Parks. President Trump called for a 13 percent budget cut at the National Parks while reducing the size of two National Park sites. This moves us in the wrong direction. Now more than ever, we need to be protecting and conserving our environment. In Montgomery, I’ve lead on this issue by taking steps to protect our local wildlife through the naturalization of village water basins. In Congress, I will be a reliable partner of the National Parks Service.
For these ideas, I am honored to be endorsed by the Sierra Club.
Public education is one of the great ventures in American history. For the last 100 years, we have made it a priority to ensure every American child has access to quality education. We are now the heirs of this mission and must protect it. I come from a family of teachers — my wife, my mother, and my brother are all teachers — and I am a product of the public education system. In Congress, I will be one of public education’s greatest allies and fiercest defenders. Here are my ideas to improve American education:
- Support quality public education. Although the public school system is one of the greatest developments in American history, it hasn’t lived up to its potential. The answer isn’t to undermine the system with vouchers that leave the most vulnerable children out in the cold. Instead, I will always fight to ensure our country has quality public schools no matter where they are.
- Empower teachers in the classroom. I believe growth targets should be set by the teachers and school districts that know their students best. National standards are vital to ensure proficiency is met no matter where a student is educated, but we should move away from the cumbersome standardized testing that often forces teachers to teach to a test instead of using better methods of teaching.
- Make college more affordable. Jobs of the 21st century often require an education beyond a high school diploma, but college degrees are often far too expensive for even middle class families. The federal government should help people attain a college education by making four-year colleges more affordable through expansion of Pell Grants and lowering of federal student loan interest rates.
- Invest in community colleges and trade schools. We have to recognize that a bachelor’s degree from a four-year university is not the only way to learn the knowledge and skills necessary to make a comfortable life in the 21st century. Community colleges and trade schools are terrific and often underutilized institutions that the federal government should encourage more students to attend, especially those who have decided a four-year university isn’t for them. Congress should increase accessibility to these institutions.
For these ideas, I am honored to be endorsed by the Illinois Federation of Teachers.
Gun Safety Reform
Our country is racked with gun violence. In 2017, over 15,000 Americans were killed by guns while another 31,000 suffered from gun-related injuries. Almost 4,000 of these Americans were children. Gun violence catches our attention after tragedies like Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, and recently Parkland. However, in 2017, we averaged nearly one mass shooting every single day. Enough is enough, we need leaders who will take the necessary actions to protect our communities.
Today, the 14th district is represented by a congressman who opposes basic and common sense gun safety reform that would save lives. Instead, he votes for dangerous legislation like the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. For this, the NRA has rewarded him with a 93 rating and $13,000 in donations.
Gun safety reform is not a 50-50 issue that divides us down the middle. Many Americans, including gun owners and NRA members, agree on the steps that need to be taken to end gun violence as we know it. We don’t have to accept mass murder as normal, we can make the changes necessary that will save lives. Here are a few ideas:
- Repeal the Dickey Amendment. Since 1996, when the Dickey Amendment was enacted, the Centers for Disease Control has been prohibited from researching gun violence as a public health concern. As a result, the CDC can’t research why gun violence occurs and what might be done to stop it. As an engineer, I know we need facts and data before we can make informed decisions. Today, even Congressman Jay Dickey believes his amendment should be repealed. For these reasons, I will sponsor legislation to repeal the Dickey Amendment and allow the CDC to research causes and solutions to our national gun violence epidemic.
- Enact universal background checks. After many mass shootings we discover that universal background checks for gun purchases could have prevented the needless deaths of innocent people. Every gun purchaser, no matter who they are, what gun they’re buying, or where they’re buying it, should be subject to a background check to ensure dangerous weapons are not falling into violent hands. This includes closing the gun show loophole.
- Ban violent criminals from purchasing guns. Criminals with violent records should be prohibited from purchasing guns which allow them to take their violence to the next level. This is especially true of criminals with a record of domestic violence, upwards of 50 percent of mass shootings are committed by men with a history of domestic violence. We can prevent violent criminals from taking their violence to the next level by prohibiting them from purchasing firearms.
- Ban assault rifles. The latest mass shootings have been deadlier and far more violent than ever before. The three worst mass shootings in American history took place in the span of ten years. Three of the ten worst mass shootings took place over the span of five months. There is a reason for this: weapons of war are now legally available to the public. From 1994 until 2004, the federal government banned the purchase of assault weapons. Congress should re-enact the assault weapon ban.
Good Government Reform
Government feels out of touch from the average American, and there’s reason for it. Since the Supreme Court handed down their Citizens United decision, our politics has become flooded with billions of dollars and much of this money is untraceable dark money. Middle class families can’t afford to compete with multinational corporations and middle class candidates can’t afford to run, so our voices are being shut out of the conversation entirely.
Today, the 14th district is represented by a congressman who accepts hundreds of thousands of dollars from the banking, investment, and insurance industries. We shouldn’t be surprised when he legislates in their favor by weakening rules designed to prevent another housing crisis and preventing consumers from suing banks that defraud them.
The middle-class 14th district deserves a middle-class representative in Congress who will look out for them. Here are my ideas on good government reform that ensures power rests with the people:
- Get big money out of politics. We can wait for the unlikely situation where the Supreme Court overturns its own Citizens United decision or we can take action now. Democrats have already introduced the Democracy For All Amendment which would allow Congress to regulate spending in elections. In Congress, I will support amending the Constitution to protect the integrity of our democracy.
- Refuse corporate PAC money. Until the Constitution is amended to get big money out of politics, I am promising to refuse corporate PAC money so residents of the 14th district know I cannot be bought and will represent the interests of the people in Congress.
In addition, we have to fight the opioid epidemic head-on. These means more investments – not cuts – for addiction treatment services. And we have to get live saving drugs like Narcan into the hands of our first responders on the front lines. This crisis didn’t happen overnight, and it’s going to take sustained effort and help on the federal level to combat this epidemic and save lives.
Social Security & Medicare
Social Security & Medicare are bedrock programs that help the middle class, and in Congress I will fight to protect and strengthen them. People have paid into these programs, and they deserve for them to be there when they retire.
Despite this, Congressman Hultgren voted to raise the retirement age of Social Security. It may be fine to work until you are 70 if you are a Congressman, but try telling that to the members of my family who work in a quarry or people who work construction or drive a truck for a living. Similarly, Congressman Hultgren voted to turn Medicare into a voucher program, which would essentially end Medicare as we know it.
I will protect Social Security – no cuts, no increased retirement age. And I favor expanding Medicare to allow those 55 and up to buy in at an earlier age.
I was an engineer before I was a mayor, and this is near and dear to my heart. Infrastructure used to be something that was non-partisan, something all sides saw the benefit of. And the great thing about investing in infrastructure is that it creates good jobs that can’t be outsourced. So you get a double return on investment.
Here in our part of Illinois, we’ve seen growth outpacing our infrastructure. Meaning people are spending a lot of time in their cars, and that’s not good for the economy, the environment, or our quality of life. So infrastructure is going to be one of my top priorities.