Election 2024 Questionnaire: Carolyn ‘Morris’ Zasada, Illinois House District 76

Election 2024
Democratic candidate Carolyn Zasada, who is vying for the nomination for the 76th district seat in the Illinois House of Representatives, answers a question Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, in a meet the candidates forum at the DeKalb Public Library. Democratic candidates Amy Murri Briel and Cohen Barnes also spoke at the event organized by DeKalb Stands and co-sponsored by the DeKalb County Democrats.

Carolyn Zasada, a Democratic candidate for Illinois House District 76 in the March primary election, answered these questions from the Shaw Local News Network.

Full Name: Carolyn ‘Morris’ Zasada

What office are you seeking? Illinois General Assembly District 76

What public offices, if any, have you previously held? Alderman Ward 1, City of DeKalb

City: DeKalb, IL

Occupation: Real Estate Agent

Campaign website: https://carolynforstaterep.com/

Considering the increasing influx of migrants to Illinois, how do you propose the state should address the challenges?

Solutions to this problem that merely “punish the bus companies’' won’t do anything because the politicians funding the buses aren’t rational actors. Texas has spent over $148 million busing migrants already, they don’t care how much it costs them or if they lose a few buses. Governor Abbott is sending migrants to places like Chicago, New York, DC, and Martha’s Vineyard because he wants the headline that “blue states are turning away migrants.”

He wants to justify his horrible treatment of migrants by showing that we would do the same thing. The best way to get this to stop is to make sure these migrants are treated well and deny Abbot his headline. Leaving migrants in horrible conditions is just going to lead to more buses coming to make us look bad. When I visited Chicago a month ago, I saw entire families sleeping outside in the cold. I want Illinois to limit spending whenever possible, but I’m a human being. Struggling people need to be taken care of. Illinois is dealing with a falling population. If we can vet and integrate some migrants into our state, we will see increased tax revenues and net growth for our state.

What are the top issues facing your district and what would you like to do to address those issues?

Our district is very diverse, but fundamentally we want the same things. I’ve knocked on more than five thousand doors this cycle, and people bring up a range of important issues, but some come up repeatedly.

Most importantly, I think the top issue facing women everywhere, including our district, are attacks on our rights. I hear people argue that an abortion ban would never happen in Illinois. But that’s simply not true. Make no mistake, if Republicans ever take control of our government, they will ban abortion. And I simply won’t stand for that. I will never make a deal or work with Republicans in any way to ban abortion. I will be their fiercest opponent. I will also work to pass a constitutional amendment that enshrines abortion as a right that no government can take away.

I discuss inadequate access to medical care in a different question so I will not repeat myself, but I want to highlight that it is absolutely among the top issues we face and it will be my top priority to secure better medical care for our community. We face far too high a tax burden. I would like to reform our tax code to enact a progressive tax system that would reduce taxes on the middle and lower class while increasing revenues.

I also think our district needs more quality, “living wage” jobs, especially in the southern part of the district. We must bolster higher education in Illinois so our workers have the skills they need to fulfill the needs of prospective businesses who would bring quality jobs. In the past decade, college enrollment has consistently declined due to high public school tuition rates. This has been brought about by reductions in state funding for public schools. In 2003, State funding made up 72% of public university funding, the rest coming from tuition and fees. Now, that number has almost flipped. We need to increase state funding of public schools, including four year, two year, and trade schools. All of those school options would give workers new skills that would help build a stronger workforce. Funding state schools would lower tuition rates, allowing more people to access college.

If there was one bill that you could get through the legislature next year, what would it be?

If I could truly pass any bill, I would want to get a Universal Free Preschool program enshrined into law. This would lower education disparities. The education gap starts young when wealthier parents can afford to send their children to preschool while poorer parents cannot afford to do so. This would also help less well-off mothers earn money to take care of their families. I’ve been a single mother in poverty, and it was one of the hardest experiences of my life. I had free childcare through a state program, which made a huge difference. But the program’s hours were reduced later on with no option of purchasing before and after care. This made it impossible to work a full day in the hours of the program. Today it’s even harder for Illinois mothers to access childcare. Working is cost prohibitive for some. Free childcare made a huge difference for me and my children. Parents need access to childcare starting at a young age.

If there was one recently passed law you could repeal, what would it be?

I can’t say that there’s a recently passed law I would outright repeal, but I would like to see a lower level of corporate taxes in our State budgets. Corporations are fleeing the state, and we should be making sure we have strong economic conditions to attract businesses that bring quality jobs.

Do you support term limits? If yes, why and what would they look like? And if no, why not?

I do not support term limits for Illinois Representatives. I understand and appreciate the desire to put a check on the power of our leaders, but I fear that term limits would impede voters from electing the Representatives they see fit to lead their districts. In both Washington D.C. and Springfield, we have many leaders who have used their experience to serve their constituents admirably. The key is making sure we call out corruption when we see it and hold bad leaders accountable at the ballot box. In Springfield, I won’t stay silent just to get along. I’ll highlight corruption whenever I see it, no matter who it affects.

Taxes are a top concern of Illinois voters. What do you think the underlying issues are and how would you propose addressing them?

The biggest reason we have such high taxes is because our tax system is outdated and unfair. It’s ridiculous to me that Illinois still has a flat tax. A progressive income tax or “fair tax” would put the state in a financially sound position that will allow us to support local governments better so that we can support the reduction of real estate taxes. The “fair tax” would raise the state’s revenue rates tremendously while offering relief for the middle class. Passing this system would allow us to raise the revenue necessary to lower state taxes and/or further fund Illinois schools to allow local school districts to lower property taxes.

We also simply need to work to lower property taxes. Decreasing property taxes has always been a priority of mine on the DeKalb city council. In the State Legislature, I will work to further expand state funding for schools so that local school districts are able to lower property taxes.

What are three things the state legislature could do to promote better fiscal responsibility within the state government?

There are many things we could do to make sure our government stays fiscally responsible.

Keep passing balanced budgets: Governor Pritzker and Illinois Democrats have passed balanced budgets for five straight years, and are likely to pass a sixth straight balanced budget. It’s a very impressive achievement. I’m thrilled that our leaders are prioritizing fiscal responsibility, and I will make sure we keep that focus in Springfield.

Put pensions in a lockbox: I would like to see an additional portion of annual tax revenue put in a “lockbox” that would be untouchable and devoted to paying down the pension crisis each year. If more state revenue is devoted to paying down our pension debt, this would help end the pension crisis and improve our state’s future.

Eliminate kickbacks and unnecessary spending due to corruption: This requires systemic change and is much easier said than done. But Illinois needs a culture change. I suspect many of our leaders have known of corruption but turned a blind eye and refused to expose it. I promise I will always call out and expose corruption, no matter who it affects. This means electing new leaders who will not use taxpayer funds to better themselves or their allies.

Do you support the Illinois gun ban? Why or why not? Please be specific.

I do support the Illinois ban of semi-automatic weapons. NIU experienced a mass shooting in 2008, and my husband was teaching there at the time. Six died and 21 were injured, and eight of the injured were critically injured. I’m a Marine, and I know that the vast majority of people who own these guns are good and responsible. But there are simply too many mass shootings where the shooters use semi-automatic weapons. As much as I wish every responsible gun owner could keep their weapons, I can’t stomach any more dead children. As a mother of five, I’m not going to let anybody snuff out my baby’s life. And everybody is somebody’s child.

What is your opinion of the role of tax incentives in economic development and business growth? Should tax incentives be offered to corporations to entice them to plant roots in local communities? Why or why not?

Tax incentives are crucial to ensuring economic development and business growth. Our current tax system is overly punitive toward major corporations, who are moving their HQ’s out of Illinois as a result and taking all of their jobs and employees with them. I understand the desire to make everyone pay their fair share, but the state will suffer if we continue to lose jobs. We must create a better business environment for employers of all sizes. I’m going to work with businesses to create tax conditions that would attract them to Illinois. On the City Council in 2020, we passed a deal with Facebook that resulted in the company building a worldwide data center in DeKalb, creating one hundred new jobs, and hundreds of union jobs in the construction phase. Illinois has seen many companies depart, and we need to accommodate businesses that would come. I would also work to cut taxes for small businesses.

How would you classify the state of public health in your district? Do you believe access to affordable healthcare is an issue? Why or why not? If you believe it’s an issue, what ideas do you have to remedy it?

Lack of access to medical care is arguably the number one problem that needs addressing in our district. The rural areas of our district don’t have the resources to provide proper swift and quality medical care to everyone in need. The Illinois Valley has lost two hospitals, and I hear so many people worry that they won’t get medical care fast enough in an emergency.

I would like to pass legislation that would expand the number of rural care centers. Lack of access to quality healthcare is not unique to my district, and many rural districts have a similar healthcare situation. SIU Medicine Department of Population Science and Policy argues that “offering health care and social services in a ‘one-stop-shop’ could alleviate transportation challenges and time constraints to effectively address a patient’s social, economic and health needs in a single visit.” I would work with other rural representatives to create a network of rural community care centers that would allow patients to access all of their basic medical needs in one location.

In his retirement letter, Rep. Yednock lamented that “working with and attempting to get my colleagues to understand the needs of downstate Illinois and obtaining resources through the budget and programs have been one of the most difficult challenges for me…the example of rural health care is but one example that is always at the forefront of my mind.” I can build the relationships necessary to secure support from representatives who represent rural and suburban areas, and I will make expanding rural healthcare access a top priority.