Illinois House of Representatives, 74th District candidate Li Arellano Jr. answered Shaw Local’s election questionnaire for the Illinois House primary election.
Voting ends for the primary election on the evening of June 28.
Full Name: Liandro Arellano, Jr.
What office are you seeking? State Representative - IL 74th Representative District
What offices, if any, have you previously held? Mayor - City of Dixon
City: Dixon, IL
Occupation: Small business owner; Soldier (Reserves); Local Elected Official
Campaign Website: www.ElectArellano.com
What are the top issues facing your district and what would you like to do to address those issues?
Key issues in the Sauk Valley include tax relief, public safety, and education policy/funding. To get tax relief, especially on property taxes, we need Illinois to eliminate expensive mandates on local government (which I’ve seen first-hand as a local mayor) and pay down the massive state pension debt. For public safety, we need to support our police departments while doing a better job ensuring the American Dream is available to anyone...no matter where they live or what their socio-economic situation. Both prevention and enforcement have roles to play in tackling crime.
Education funding, like tax relief, is heavily tied to paying down pension debt. Illinois pays billions of dollars in debt payment that should have been going to education (and infrastructure, and a host of other budgetary items). Additionally, we need to improve parental choice when picking their children’s schools and education path. Finally, we need to continue to reform school funding formulas that still punish children living in communities with low property values, including many rural districts.
Illinois’ long-standing budget failures tie into almost all of these areas. As such, the key to our future lies in honestly and aggressively tackling our debt issues and state overspending. State debt payments have deeply damaged many budget items that should be bigger priorities in our state.
If COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths rise again, what mitigations, if any, should the state pursue?
Dixon/Lee County was a regional leader in many key statistics, including vaccination rates and positivity rate. While some of that may have been geographical, one keys to it was getting out information in a timely and honest manner. At the state level, the governor has done a poor job working with the legislature to accomplish that goal. Instead of relying on a one-man state of emergency every month, Illinois must share information as a team and build greater buy-in for public health and safety.
In light of Michael Madigan’s indictment, what steps should the legislature take to address corruption and ethics concerns in the state?
We need stronger ethical reforms. This includes battling cronyism as well as creating investigative watchdogs that are less subject to legislative manipulation and control. We also need to de-centralize some government power away from the State--not everything needs to be controlled or taxed to the degree to which Illinois does.
We also need to change the legislative process to make it more transparent. This includes eliminating shell bills and preventing surprise legislation, such as what happened with the overnight policing bill. That piece of midnight legislation has required multiple “trailer” bills, and still needs more fixes and corrections.
If there was one bill that you could get through the legislature next year, what would it be?
One bill I hope to sponsor, with bipartisan support, would allow local governments to properly invest the billions of dollars they collectively hold in reserve across Illinois. This would give taxpayers a normal rate of return--potentially replacing some tax revenue and providing tax relief.
In the City of Dixon alone, this would have added millions of dollars of to our annual budgets during my two terms--a major impact. If that impact was multiplied across all of Illinois, it has the potential to save taxpayers billions of dollars in local taxes.
If there was one recently passed law you could repeal, what would it be?
The SAFE-T act, which was a rush job that did a great deal of damage to public safety. It has required multiple fixes, and both parties believe it still is not ready. It should never had been snuck through in the middle of the night.
Do you support term limits? If yes, why and what would they look like? And if no, why not?
Yes, I support term limits, especially for legislative leaders. However, you do not want them done in such a way that special interest groups are simply empowered with even more institutional knowledge and tactical advantages. If that dynamic is ignored, it can cause serious problems in any political system--and strips more power away from the people.
Inflation across the country has greatly impacted the price of gasoline, food and other supplies. What should the legislature do to address these issues?
Government debt (of which Illinois has far too much) and over-regulation are known causes of inflation. We also need to reanalyze wage controls, government mandates, and the record unemployment benefits given during a period of record job openings. These are all small ways in which state policy added to the national inflationary dynamics.
We also need to stop hiking the gas tax. Instead, we need to get pension debt under control so we can properly invest in infrastructure. The gas tax trickles in to so many parts of Illinois’ economy, including the costs that impact those on fixed incomes (such as food).
Taxes are a top concern of Illinois voters. What do you think the underlying issues are and how would you propose addressing them?
Illinois’ pension debt is the single biggest issue causing tax hikes. This may be directly, such as gas taxes, or indirectly, such as underfunding of local governments. School districts, which are the primary component of local property tax bills, have been especially impacted by lack of funding and ever-rising state mandates.
Overspending is another clear driver of high taxation in Illinois. Springfield’s tax-and-spend culture has lasted for generations, and the cumulative debt somehow doesn’t have much to show for it. Our infrastructure is decaying, we’ve had to put in freezes on hiring in some state departments, and many state services are critically underfunded. In short, previous generations spent their own money and then some; now we are caught holding the bag. The only way out of this hole is to get caught up on pension debt.
What are three things the state legislature could do to promote better fiscal responsibility within state government?
1. Pass truly balanced state budgets. This means no gimmicks and unreasonably rosy assumptions. Make it truly balanced every year, even if it means cutting spending.
2. Better empower watchdogs, such as inspectors general, to do their jobs and report in an unbiased manner.
3. Implement more third-party auditing and budget analysis, rather than just partisan power moves.
How would you propose addressing the problems with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services?
This is a deeply complicated issue. Better funding may help as Illinois fixes debt issues, and certainly there are leadership issues in DCFS. However, many of the issues are best addressed by prevention so as to ease the burden on the entire system. This includes educational opportunities, community support via public/private partnerships, and ensuring economic opportunities. It also means tackling addiction issues that can lead to families in crisis.
What can be done at a state level to address crime?
Education plays a role in crime prevention, as does economic opportunity and mobility. Encouraging community involvement and volunteerism also makes an impact. Addressing addiction and mental illness certainly is something Illinois struggles with, as do many states.
We also much support the police and the important enforcement role they play. Prevention is best, but no matter what liberal Chicago leaders think, enforcement is also vital. Setting and enforcing standards is healthy for society; stepping away from that is causing immense damage to our communities.
Did Joe Biden win the 2020 election?
What is your position on the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol?
Any and all who broke the law should be investigated, then tried and convicted as necessary.
Illinois has seen significant revenue growth from marijuana sales and enhanced gambling. Are there other industries the state should consider to grow revenue?
I believe the state could do a better job investing in and promoting outdoor recreation and activity, especially in the post-pandemic world. Wisconsin does a much better job at this and generates quite a bit of economic activity as a result. Illinois actually does worse than any of its neighboring states when compared to GDP! This is something that could especially make an impact in the Sauk Valley. We have many State Parks and other outdoor amenities and opportunities--while still being conveniently located within hours of several highly populated metropolitan areas.