Redistricting, Taxes, Streamlining Government. The BGA’s Candidate Questionnaires Will Teach You What You Need to Know to Vote

Read the candidates’ responses before you head to the polls to make sure your vote is an informed one.

Did you know JB Pritzker says he supports the creation of independent redistricting? Do you know how the candidates for attorney general want to expand the office’s power to fight corruption? Are you aware a candidate for Cook County Assessor supports changes to the state’s income tax?

You can learn about all of this and more by reading the Better Government Association's candidate questionnaires in order to help you prepare to cast your vote in the Nov. 6 general election. We asked candidates for all contested races statewide and Cook County-wide to answer questions to help you determine how to vote.

JB Pritzker, the Democratic governor nominee, says his plan is to introduce a “graduated income tax” — different income tax rates for different income groups in Illinois. Republican incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner opposes a graduated income tax and supports the state’s current flat tax system. We know this from previous answers and news coverage. Rauner, despite repeated invitations and requests, did not complete the BGA’s general election questionnaire, nor did Conservative Party candidate and state Sen. Sam McCann or Libertarian Party candidate Grayson “Kash” Jackson. Rauner did answer BGA questions before the primary election and you can review those answers here.

Pritzker wants to generate additional income tax dollars for schools so that they rely less on property tax funding. Now, here’s the catch with his plan: Pritzker won’t say what new rates he would seek. Instead, he says the rates will be negotiated on a bipartisan basis with the Legislature. Before that can happen, however, the state’s constitution would need to be changed as it calls for a flat income tax rate.

Another big race in Illinois is for the attorney general’s office. The current officeholder, Lisa Madigan, isn’t running again after being in office for 16 years. The attorney general is the chief legal officer of the state. Among answers on many topics, Republican nominee Erika Harold said she would pursue adding certain powers to the office’s arsenal. Her opponents, Democratic nominee Kwame Raoul and Libertarian candidate Bubba Harsey have some different ideas. They also were asked how they can demonstrate independence from their political parties, about the Freedom of Information Act that allows residents to monitor their government and about oversight of the Chicago Police Department.

He’s not a statewide candidate, but Democratic Cook County Assessor nominee Fritz Kaegi also talked about a graduated income tax. He acknowledged that the assessor can’t do much about the income tax system specifically, but he does plan to push for a change to the system for reasons he explains in his answers.

Kaegi’s opponent, Republican Joe Paglia, did not answer our questionnaire despite repeated requests for him to do so. Kaegi defeated incumbent Democrat Assessor Joe Berrios, who was criticized heavily about how he assessed properties and the lack of transparency about the process. Kaegi said he wants to bring more transparency to the office by “making data and algorithms (including assessment variables) available to the public” so that outside parties can check his work.

These are only some of the tidbits gleaned from candidates’ answers to our questions. You can learn more about the top races as well as about the candidates for secretary of state, treasurer, comptroller and the candidates seeking to oversee the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. There’s so much more to learn on ilvotes.org. It’s the place to go to educate yourself about the candidates and make sure your vote is an informed one.

Read up before you head to the polls.

About the Author

Danish Murtaza

As policy associate, Danish Murtaza focuses on policy research and writing, as well as monitoring of legislation in the Illinois General Assembly. Danish analyzes and explains contemporary policy issues regarding government accountability and efficiency. He provides analysis and recommendations to the policy team on legislation in the IL General Assembly.