Full Name: Rachel Ventura
What office are you seeking? State Senate, District 43
What offices, if any, have you previously held? Will County Board Member, District 9, Will County Forest Preserve Commissioner and Vice President
Occupation: Will County Board Member and Executive Assistance at Joliet Township
Education: Bachelors of Science, Mathematics from Benedictine University, Associate of Science, Biology from Tidewater College
Campaign Website: www.ElectVentura.com
What are the top issues facing your district and what would you like to do to address those issues?
The climate crisis is an issue that will impact all of us and many of the residents of the 43rd District will be impacted as we shift away from fossil fuels towards a renewable energy future. It will be important to make sure that we have a just transition and attract local green collar jobs to maintain a stable base of employment.
As the Joliet aquafer dries up, we have a water crisis that is going to require major infrastructure improvements throughout the 43rd District and in neighboring Crest Hill. This will be a high priority of mine as a State Senator.
I support robust, high-speed public broadband that will provide stable support for technology companies that want to set up shop in Will County. Building a competitive infrastructure will save ratepayers money and provide high quality service that keeps young people in Will County.
If COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths rise again, what mitigations, if any, should the state pursue?
Depending on the severity of any potential new COVID 19 spike, or any outbreak of a new variant, I would support whatever measures are necessary to keep the public safe, prevent the spread of the virus, and provide medical care for those who are infected. If necessary, I would support requiring masks in public spaces and businesses. If we need to deploy mobile testing sites and mass vax sites, I would be inclined to follow CDC suggested guidelines to make these happen. As a public official I would use my voice to echo the commonsense advice that medical professionals are dispensing.
In light of Michael Madigan’s indictment, what steps should the legislature take to address corruption and ethics concerns in the state?
The first step is electing people who are not tied to corporate PAC money. As long as I have been in the political sphere, I have proudly used the tagline, “No strings attached,” and I have not taken one dime in corporate PAC money. The challenge of course is running a grassroots campaign while an opponent might have millions of dollars. We need campaign finance laws similar to Arizona’s Clean Election law. Their electoral system provides matching funds for any candidate who gets on the ballot and qualifies as a clean election candidate.
My campaign is not taking corporate PAC dollars and in the case of companies like NorthPoint, I won’t allow corporations to filter money through unions like the Operators Local 150 did in the 2020 County Executive race.
I have voted against TIF districts that favored wealthy developers, who donated to both Senator Dick Durbin (D) and Donald Trump (R). Corruption is bi-partisan and voters are tired of it because they always end up picking up the tab when the wealthy can buy themselves a massive tax abatement or lucrative contract with the State of Illinois. I will help put a stop to this by ensuring the TIF requirements aren’t skirted or manipulated.
I have proven myself as a candidate who can get elected without big dollars, and I have stood up to those powerful interests once elected. If elected to represent the 43rd Senate District, I will be that same honest voice in Springfield who will call out those who are engaged in the broken pay-to-play system We have a long way to go to restore the publics’ trust in what is now a very broken system
If there was one bill that you could get through the legislature next year, what would it be?
I would like to see an ethics reform package that created a clean elections process so candidates who are free of the corrosive influence of big money on the political system are able to get into office. It is absolutely insane that Ken Griffin can donate $20 million or more to any one political candidate and JB Pritzker can self-fund to the tune of $91 million. How will normal people ever have a voice in the chambers of power?
A comprehensive ethics reform package would also require lawmakers to attach their names to any appropriation requests so we knew definitively which lawmaker was requesting funds for specific projects.
An important follow up bill would be to pass Rank Choice Voting and equal ballot access for all candidates.
If there was one recently passed law you could repeal, what would it be?
Senate Bill 1015 transferred a lot of unchecked power to the Will County Executive and strips the Will County Board of their ability to put an adequate check on this power grab. This bill had no practical purpose other than to give Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant more unchecked power as the Will County Executive. It was also unconstitutional as it created carve outs as stated by the Champaign County State’s Attorney opinion. We need to maintain the system of checks and balances that have served Will County well for decades. This bill affected only Will and Champaign counties, and both counties opposed it almost unanimously. The Will County Board opposed it with a vote of 22 against and 2 in favor, yet state lawmakers pushed it through with little to no consideration for the overwhelming opposition.
Do you support term limits? If yes, why and what would they look like? And if no, why not?
I think campaign finance reform is more important than term limits. Term limits can sweep an honest lawmaker out of office as quickly as it could a corrupt lawmaker. Additionally, the voters can reject a lawmaker at the ballot box every two, four or six years (depending on the office). Finally, I think that term limits without campaign finance reform would only accelerate pay-to-play schemes and cause ethically challenged lawmakers to think about how they can cash in over the shorter time they are in office.
Inflation across the country has greatly impacted the price of gasoline, food and other supplies. What should the legislature do to address these issues?
Inflation is controlled more at the federal level, but there are some things that we can do to address inflationary concerns. Some of the safety net spending and pandemic-related costs weakened the power of the U.S. dollar and is driving some of the inflation that we are seeing. While many people lost their jobs and really struggled during the pandemic, wealthy elites seemed to thrive. A number of measures could be considered to close the growing wealth gap. I favor taxing the extremely wealthy by passing a graduated income tax so the wealthy will pay their fair share.
The ongoing national labor shortage that happened during and after the pandemic is another effect. I believe that people are willing and able to work, but they know they can’t survive on minimum wage salaries. This would be better addressed with a national minimum wage increase that is indexed to inflation. When businesses start paying workers a fair wage there is a good chance that we can reduce if not eliminate some of the costs of social safety net programs like welfare and food stamps. If a person is working full time they shouldn’t have to depend on taxpayer-subsidized healthcare, housing and food. We need living wage jobs so every one can live a quality life.
We need to build more affordable single-family homes to offset the outrageous inflationary cost of housing. I will continue to advocate for higher wage jobs in our district and across the state.
Taxes are a top concern of Illinois voters. What do you think the underlying issues are and how would you propose addressing them?
In short, we need to tax the wealthy and provide more tax relief to the working middle class.
Should the general assembly again decide to support a graduated income tax, I would be in favor of re- drafting the legislation to give middle-income earners a larger percentage of tax relief. I would also support re-marketing it as the “Ken Griffin Tax” to underscore the need to tax Illinois wealthy elites. To improve voter confidence that they are voting on a tax decrease for the working middle, we actually need to offer tax relief. The previous proposal left many voters earning $100,000-$250,000 paying the same 4.95% level, and it was not enough to motivate them to the polls on an important referendum issue. The proposed graduated rates in the accompanying bill to the referendum question that actually adjusted rates was too complicated to communicate to voters. We need to simplify the proposed rates so voters can see exactly how much more or less they would be paying and communicate that clearly.
I also support closing corporate tax loopholes and imposing a .0033% tax on trades at Chicago’s stock exchanges (CME) and (CBOE) as a means of generating more revenue.
With a stable revenue stream we can adequately reform education funding and uphold the Illinois constitution that requires the state to pay 50% of education costs. Any increases in state funding need to mandate local property tax cuts in a dollar-for-dollar swap. This would prevent municipalities from keeping high tax rates and spending the money elsewhere.
What are three things the state legislature could do to promote better fiscal responsibility within state government?
I think we are still in a place where Madigan-connected players are still doing business with the state of Illinois and the culture of pay-to-play is still very prevalent in Springfield. The most recent example is the nuclear bailout that enabled Comed and Exelon to subsidize their corporate profits with clean energy tax credits despite regular shareholder dividend increases, record profits, and a CEO who earns. In the wake of the Madigan-Comed scandal, Illinois Building Trades did the lobbying instead of Comed to get this legislation passed.
We could disallow companies that make donations to political campaigns from getting state contracts. Alternatively, a low limit ($500) donation might be allowed for those concerned about a first amendment suit.
We need a truly independent investigative body with subpoena power to have oversight on State business and legislative affairs, or we can ask the FBI to have a standing presence in Springfield. The Auditor General’s office has the power to do these tasks, but this person has previously been hand- picked by Mike Madigan, reducing their effectiveness.
Lastly, we must pay the obligations and debts the state has in order to improve the State’s rating. We are moving in the right direction right now and need to continue to look at ways to keep a balanced budget, meet our pension obligations, and pay down debt that doesn’t over burden the working family or individual.
How would you propose addressing the problems with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services?
Illinois has a high threshold for removing kids from an abusive family, one of the highest thresholds in the United States. According to an investigative report, between 2015 and 2017, 102 children died from abuse and neglect after DCFS had inspected those homes, or there had been a report to DCFS about abuse or neglect. Several things need to change.
DCFS is run by an appointee of the governor and the legislature’s role needs to be to work with that person to make it easier for DCFS to remove a child from an abusive household and find a safe place for that child. Additionally, there needs to be better trained police officers to handle and keep track of DCFS cases in a municipality. If police have better communication with DCFS-inspected households, they can monitor those houses more routinely.
It appears that DCFS needs to have better hiring, training, recruiting and retention processes. Overall, there seem to be an absence of a well-communicated, streamlined set of processes and procedures. While every case is going to be different, DCFS needs to error on the side of safety for the child in every decision.
Lessening the case load per case worker is so important for each worker to thoroughly investigate the claims both to ensure false reports are not tearing families apart but also to ensure the safety of children who need it.
What can be done at a state level to address crime?
The best crime prevention is a good paying job, an affordable house to live in, and an opportunity to succeed in life. According to the ACLU, 79% of crimes in Illinois are considered “crimes of necessity.” There is no silver bullet that can stop crime, but it will be a combination of working to improve economic opportunities, maximizing education dollars to prepare people for a good job, and assuring that people have access to high quality affordable healthcare.
State grants for law enforcement can help re-shape municipal policing practices by making sure that state resources come with strings and oversight. Changing the culture of the police can help build trust with the community and is needed, however, crime prevention isn’t created through more enforcement, it is created by economic growth, opportunities, and education for all in a community.
Did Joe Biden win the 2020 election?
Joe Biden won the 2020 Presidential election and numerous ballot re-counts by independent and Republican-affiliated groups have confirmed his electoral victory. For those people who believe the election was stolen, I would encourage them to become poll watchers and become more engaged in protecting the vote if they think it might be stolen. President Trump had the resources and grassroots support to have poll watchers at polling locations in battle ground states where he thought the election might be “rigged.” Yet he didn’t invest his campaign’s time and resources in protecting the vote.
What is your position on the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol?
Protestors have the right to peaceably assemble, but they crossed the line when they decided to storm the capital, some armed with loaded weapons. Their intent was to stop the certification of the election of Joe Biden. This was the first time in U.S. history that we have seen an attempt to not have a peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next. I believe that the January 6th committee needs to continue their work to see if President Trump himself was complicate in inciting the attempted violent takeover of our capital. It is important they continue their work and charge those who are found guilty.
Illinois has seen significant revenue growth from marijuana sales and enhanced gambling. Are there other industries the state should consider to grow revenue?
My focus in looking at emerging industries will probably be more focused on emerging green technologies like electric vehicle production, energy efficient building components and new technologies that address the climate crisis. Considering that Austin, TX is now building a 5th Tesla manufacturing plant tells me that we need to do more to attract this growing industry. I don’t see a need to expand gambling any further in Illinois. With respect to plant medicine, many states are now exploring the legalization of other plant medicines like psilocybin because of their medicinal value. This would be a medical legalization that would require a prescription by a license physician. Harvard is studying the many psychological medical benefits that Ayahuasca and other plant medicines have in treating addiction and mental health issues like depression. I would like to see Illinois capitalize on these new emerging markets as long as they are administered safely by people with medical training. As opioid deaths continue to rise across this county it is crucial to provide alternative safe treatment, physical and mental health care to individuals who need it.