Incumbent, Democrat Debbie Meyers-Martin and Republican Max Solomon are running in the general election for IL House of Representatives representing the 38th District. The 38th District covers the areas of Tinley Park, Matteson, and Country Club Hills. Elected in 2018, State Rep. Debbie Meyers-Martin has been dedicated to public service, education, and economic development in the 38th District. Her top priorities include health care, the south suburban airport project, schools, and unemployment. Born in Nigeria and a U.S. citizen, Republican Max Solomon is running to represent the communities in his District to focus on important issues such as balancing the Illinois budget, pension reform, and freezing and reforming property taxes.
We talked to both candidates about their policies and stance on the issues.
Q&A With Debbie Meyers-Martin
Tammy Gibson: What legislations and work have you done in the last two years to improve your District?
Debbie Meyers-Martin: During my first year, some of the big legislations were to bring a south suburban casino and airport, raising the age limit for young people to purchase tobacco products, expand voter opportunities and rights for this coming election. I was part of the bill that put the cap on insulin purchases for $100. We approved $350 million for K-12 school funding. I supported the bill that monitors insurance rate increases. I did file before we left Springfield this past Spring for the Senior Tax Deferral Act. I plan on pursuing that once I get back to Springfield. This Act allows seniors in default on their property taxes to tap into a fund put in place years ago. There is about $19 million in that fund that no one uses or knows about.
TG: The pandemic has affected the State of Illinois financially. What can be done to rebuild the economy and create jobs?
DMM: We certainly need to support the small businesses that we already have. Small businesses create over 85% of the jobs. The State needs to continue to provide resources to help small businesses. In the Southland, we have logistical manufacturing firms and the opening of 25 new Amazon Fulfillment Centers. That’s huge commerce for the State of Illinois. We do need to support the south suburban airport because that will create hundreds of jobs. It will bring economic development to the Southland as it has done at O’Hare and Midway Airport.
Our revenue stream took a hit, but I think between the federal dollars coming to the State and the Illinois Fair Tax, we will have the revenue to help support economic development in the Southland. Economic growth, creating jobs, and supporting small businesses must be done to move forward after this devastating experience related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
TG: What are your three top priorities if re-elected?
DMM: First, it would be property tax reform. I have served on two Property Tax Relief Task Forces, one for the Governor and the second serving with the Small Business Advocacy Council to address property taxes. We know that property taxes throughout the entire State are incredibly high, especially in the south suburbs. It’s very big on my list. I have been working with the Cook County Assessor and other legislators to help him create legislation that will address the unfair practices of property assessment in the State, particularly in the south suburbs. We know that it’s unfair, it’s not done correctly, and it needs to be addressed.
The second is economic development. I want to continue working with my small business advocacy group, the local chamber, and business association to create a universal economic development plan for the southland to assist in some of the challenges that we have had related to high property taxes. I want to continue to be an advocate for economic development.
The third is educational funding. When you are funding for education, as it should be, and the State’s constitutional responsibility to do that, it will begin to affect high property taxes. 75% of the dollars that homeowners payout for property taxes goes to education. Those are the top three priorities, but we certainly have health care. From COVID-19, we know that we already knew that there are health care disparities, but it just shines a light on it beyond any denials that it does not occur.
TG: Why should voters re-elect you and not your opponent?
DMM: Since I was elected in 2018 and sworn in 2019, I have been incredibly responsive and dedicated to my District’s people. I have brought over $15 million in capital money through the capital bill back to my District for infrastructure improvements and road repairs. I have brought over $40 million in IDOT projects for intersection modernization, bridge repairs, and replacement. Our office was open during the pandemic to respond to the people trying to get through IDES and other agencies. I think I have been accessible, which is extremely important. I have sponsored health fairs and small business workshops. I sat on the Higher Education Appropriation Committee and fought for Governor State University to ensure it got its fair funding. I have been effective and relevant to my District’s people, and I need to go back to Springfield to complete some of the work we were unable to finish. The Illinois Legislative Caucus will be addressing police accountability, criminal justice reform, health care, and workforce development. I am very involved in the caucus in those efforts to address some of those injustices.
I have been endorsed by the mayors in my District, two major and small newspapers. As a former mayor, I have tried to take that position for local government in Springfield. I think it is essential to have that perspective and knowledge base because many issues that face my District and the State are related to local government.
To volunteer or donate to Meyers-Martin’s campaign for State Representative, go to https://www.repdmeyersmartin.com/.
Q&A with Candidate Max Solomon
Tammy Gibson: Why are you running for IL House 38th District seat?
Max Solomon: This is my District, neighborhood, and community. The problems that we face in this District don’t seem to have gotten the usual politicians’ attention sent to Springfield. The State of Illinois is the second highest taxed state in the United States, only second to New Jersey, especially property taxes. Cook County is notorious for high property taxes. The City of Harvey is the highest taxed municipality in the State of Illinois. The suburban communities surrounding Harvey are experiencing high property taxes. We see this over and over again. The property values are not justifying the high property taxes that we pay. The property values are actually going down. There are many abandoned buildings, boarded-up buildings; businesses are leaving, people are moving out and losing their property due to foreclosures and tax debt. I’m running because it’s time for somebody to go to Springfield and highlight the problems we have and go after solutions to get some relief for the 38th District.
TG: In the State of Illinois, what is your highest priority?
MS: The State of Illinois is in serious debt. We haven’t had a balanced budget because the Democrats and Republicans have not balanced the Illinois budget in over 30 years. Our pension debts have skyrocketed due to underfunding. We need pension reform, reform property taxes, and fund education. If we reform the pension, we would have more money to spend on education. The State of Illinois Constitution calls for the State to sponsor and fund education from K-12 through community college. The State is not doing that. Over 60% of our property taxes go towards education and school districts, but we don’t have anything to show for it, and schools are failing. Many parents don’t’ want to send their children to public school anymore because the schools are failing. They are sending them to private schools.
With pension reform, we can free up some money so that the State of Illinois can carry its burden, sponsoring, and funding schools. Then we, as homeowners, citizens of Illinois, and my District, which has experienced high taxes over the years, will finally get a break because school districts won’t have to tax us that high anymore.
TG: What policies should the State of Illinois take to create jobs and rebuild the economy due to the pandemic?
MS: Before the pandemic hit, the State of Illinois was already headed towards financial disaster. The Governor and the state legislature passed a budget that was not balanced. In a state where there are high taxes and an unbalanced budget and nothing to show for the taxes, businesses will close, residents are going to Indiana to buy gas, groceries, and move out of Illinois. We have a six billion dollar shortfall in an already unbalanced budget, and it’s higher than the revenue. That means you are spending more than you are bringing in. Illinois is spending more than what we have.
To make the State of Illinois business-friendly again and create jobs, we need to look at new policies. COVID-19 made it worse, but it’s not the factor that got us to where we are. Again, the solution is pension reform, property tax reform, and, most importantly, we need to defeat the Tax Hike Amendment.
TG: What are your education, social justice, and prison reform positions that are very important in the black community?
MS: The black community has lost a sense of responsibility to self. I call it the community of accountability. Before we look outdoors for solutions and other groups of cultures, we need to look inside ourselves first. We need to take responsibility and accountability.
Prison reform is the symptom of a disease. Having our brothers and sisters locked up in high proportions of the population is not the disease; it’s the symptom. I want to go back and fix the disease so that it can stop. We know how the system works. It’s a direct relationship with the State’s laws based on the people we elect to go to Springfield. We need to bring back the black family unit. If we teach our children the importance of education, dress for success, and motivate them to achieve greatness, they grow up to see those things being manifested in their parents; they will become successful.
TG: If you win, what’s the first issue you would prioritize, and how would you accomplish it?
MS: My first agenda would be how to consolidate our taxing bodies. There are a lot of government bodies asking for their cut of our hard-earned dollar. If you earn a dollar today and have nine people waiting for you at home asking for 10 cents, you are left with 10 cents. There are over 7,000 governmental units in Illinois. We have the school board, library board, townships, colleges, municipals, garbage, etc. waiting for your dollar to arrive so they can send you their tax bill. I sponsored the referendum for term limits in Hazel Crest. If elected, I will sponsor and advocate for consolidating taxing bodies, pushing for a property tax freeze, and doing what I can for pension reform.
TG: Why should voters elect you to the IL House 38th District seat and not your opponent?
MS: My opponent ran two years ago and promised to do something about our property taxes because they are high. The very first vote she cast in the House of Representatives of the State of Illinois was for Mike Madigan, the problem for the State of Illinois. The allegedly most corrupt politician in the State of Illinois. We don’t need politicians in Springfield that are going to be blindly loyal to Mike Madigan. My opponent has become a part of the machine and cannot say no to higher taxes and no to Mike Madigan. Like me, we need an independent voice and a different policy approach, like the one I bring to the table. We need the people of the 38th District to hear and see that there is someone in Springfield fighting for the issues they have identified and the problem they have targeted, high property taxes. My opponent has done nothing. I’m going to be the voice in Springfield standing up and fighting for my District and my people.
To volunteer or donate to Solomon’s campaign for State Representative, go to www.maxsolomon.org.
The Chicago Defender has not made any endorsements in the race for the IL State Representative, 38th District. The purpose of this article and the articles in our Voting series is to inform and educate our readers on the candidates and their positions. Early voting is currently taking places around the state until Election day, November 3rd.
Tammy Gibson is a travel historian and writer. Find her at www.sankofatravelher.com, Facebook, Instagram @SankofaTravelher, and Twitter @SankofaTravelHr.