Green Party candidate for Governor Rich Whitney has uploaded a long list of position statements, which I want to share with you. You can read the answers to my questions to him when he visited Woodstock in May here.
RICH WHITNEY RELEASES POSITIONS ON TWENTY CRUCIAL ISSUES IN ILLINOIS
Carbondale, IL—Green Party gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney today released a position briefing on 20 crucial issues in Illinois. The positions include (they follow this release):
State Budget Taxation Economy & Job Development
Education Public Pensions Government/Public Sector
Gambling Death Penalty Legalization of Marijuana
Conceal & Carry Public Safety Campaign Finance Reform
Ethics in Government Redistricting Running the Executive Branch
Reproductive Rights Immigration LGBT Rights
Environment Militarism and War
Whitney poll numbers are rising in the latest Public Policy Polling that came out last week. He registered 11 percent in that poll showing Republican Bill Brady ahead of incumbent governor Pat Quinn.
Rich Whitney said, “This issue briefing covers some of the most crucial issues that Illinoisans care about. For instance on the controversial issue of taxes, Whitney asserts,
“The issue is not whether we need an income tax increase; the issue is how we make our tax system fairer.”
On the issue of ethics in government, Whitney said,
“…that all non-policy-making state jobs be selected on the basis of objective criteria by an independent bureau. I also promise to appoint an Inspector General from an opposition party, to prevent and root out illegal job patronage and help remove the cloud of corruption over our state.”
On the very crucial issue of education, Whitney was forthright in stating,
“I want to go beyond the current budget dilemma and make a major public investment into education, so that we can achieve the goal of providing high quality educational opportunities for all, not only from pre-K – 12, but beyond.”
Rich Whitney makes his and the Green Party’s agenda clear in this briefing. Some items are more controversial than others, but the briefing document clearly draws a line in the sand between Whitney and the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor.
Rich Whitney is a 55-year-old civil rights and employment lawyer from Carbondale. As a lawyer, he has fought for working people who have lost their jobs or had their rights violated. A founder of the Illinois Green Party, he has long been politically active in support of the labor, health-care reform, environmental, civil rights, and peace movements. In 2006, he served as the Green Party’s first candidate for Governor, winning over 360,000 votes and making it possible for Illinois voters to have a third choice on the ballot statewide.
For candidate interview requests please contact Brandon Punke at 618-434-0046 or Doug Dobmeyer at 312-315-6887.
Rich Whitney on the Issues: In Brief
The fundamental cause of our state deficit is our regressive tax system, which imposes the largest share of the tax burden on those least able to pay. We need to move toward a more progressive system by shielding lower and middle-income working people before raising the individual and corporate income tax, via a measure like HB 174 or SB 750. We also need to impose a financial transactions tax on speculative trading, which can raise billions of dollars for our schools, colleges and social services without harming genuine productive activity. I support establishing a state bank like North Dakota has had for years, which allows the state to generate income without raising additional taxes. On the spending side, I support a thorough examination or forensic audit* to eliminate spending that does not serve a legitimate public purpose.
The issue is not whether we need an income tax increase; the issue is how we make our tax system fairer. The tax burden needs to be shifted to those most able to pay. Measures like SB 750 would raise the individual rate to 5 percent and the corporate rate to 8 percent – but would protect the bottom 60 percent of income earners from actually paying the higher tax. We also need to fund education more through the state rather than local property taxes – and provide badly needed property tax relief. HB 174 and SB 750 include that as part of the package.
Economy and Job Opportunities
I have a comprehensive plan to meet the goal of a full employment economy. It starts with solving the budget crisis and restoring health to the public sector, especially education. A public sector that invests in people – their education, health care, infrastructure, affordable housing and affordable clean energy – is the key to creating a healthy and productive private sector. That’s why I am fighting for free higher education for Illinois residents and a single-payer universal health care system. I am fighting for a Green capital bill to promote renewable energy, with manufacturing based in Illinois, sustainable transportation, including real high-speed rail, smart urban redesign and energy efficiency. I propose to use the power of eminent domain to reclaim and retool closed factories and facilities, and reopen them as community-owned or employee-owned enterprises. My state bank proposal can provide a powerful tool of monetary policy, to extend credit where it is needed to attain our economic goals.
Our state Constitution makes it a fundamental obligation of government to provide quality educational opportunities to all. But our state government actually provides the lowest percentage of state support for education of any state in the U.S., and we also have among the most unequal schools in the U.S., between rich and poor districts. Our over reliance on property taxes to fund our schools is a related problem of long standing. My plans for addressing the budget crisis will not only alleviate these problems; I want to go beyond that and make a major public investment into education, so that we can achieve the goal of providing high quality educational opportunities for all, not only from pre-K – 12, but beyond. To me it is unacceptable that in one of the wealthiest states in the wealthiest nation in the world, our schools are failing and students must incur a lifetime of debt just to obtain a college degree. You will not find a stronger advocate for public education than Rich Whitney. Investing in our children’s education is always the very smartest thing a government can do.
For years, the General Assembly and a succession of both Democratic and Republican governors deliberately under funded our public pension system because it was more convenient to do that rather than practice fiscal responsibility. Now that we have the largest unfunded pension liability in the United States, much of the corporate media in this state have taken to blaming the workers for the problem, spreading the lie that their pension benefits are too “generous,” when in fact they are extremely modest compared to other states, workers pay their fair share into the system and often lose Social Security benefits as part of the price for receiving them. In my view, this is actually part of an ongoing attack on the middle class by Wall Street and certain financial interests that have sought to undermine defined benefit pensions in favor of having workers invest their retirement funds into riskier instruments like 401(k)s. Yes, there are some who abuse the pension plans by “gaming the system,” and that must be stopped. But the vast majority of our pensioners are just trying to enjoy their reasonable rewards after years of devoted public service. I will fight to maintain existing pension standards, not undermine them, and restore adequate and responsible funding to the system.
On the role of Government and the Public Sector
There are some forces in society today that push the view that government itself is the problem; government is bad; government is irredeemably inefficient, venal and hopeless. I disagree. What is true is that when government is under the control of big moneyed interests, multinational corporations and banks that have an agenda of undermining government, so that they themselves can reap private profits at public expense, then government can indeed be all of these things. Under the reign of the two corporate-sponsored parties, that is exactly what we have been getting. But government does not have to be any of these things. It can also be a force for the public good, when we, the people, control it. That is one of the reasons why we formed the Green Party, a party that refuses corporate campaign contributions; a party based on positive principles aimed at serving the public good. If we stop looking at government as “it,” or “them,” and start looking at it as “us”; if we take the steps needed to make it an expression of “us,” then government will indeed become a force for the public good.
I oppose the expansion of gambling into video poker, new casinos or anything else, and will fight to repeal all state-sanctioned gambling, exempting only established river boats. Gambling is a hidden tax on the poor, the ignorant and the addiction-prone. While it has become an important source of revenue for the state, its supposed benefits are illusory when we consider that it drains disposable income from the poor and desperate that would otherwise be spent on useful commodities, and when we consider the social costs of more bankruptcies, crime, blight, domestic conflict and divorce, substance abuse, and other secondary effects. Our state government should not be promoting activities that separate low-income people from their money.
I would not only extend the moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois; I would fight to repeal capital punishment altogether. A criminal justice system composed of imperfect human beings does not have the moral authority to take a human life. Experience shows that the risk of error is too great and the consequences of error too severe – and, of course, irreversible – to justify capital punishment. There is also no credible evidence that it deters violent crime. I believe the opposite is true: That when the state takes a human life, it sends a message that taking a human life is sometimes justified.
Legalization of Marijuana
Second Amendment/Conceal and Carry
I agree with the Supreme Court that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms. That right does have limits; the question is where to draw the line. To me it should be absolute in the home, except for those who have waived their rights by committing a violent offense. I support right to carry for persons who can pass a high threshold of testing for gun proficiency, safety and knowledge of acceptable use for self-defense. But I also support the right of counties to opt out of such a statewide system. If we are serious about addressing gun violence, the focus should not be on limiting the rights of law-abiding people to bear arms; it should be on the unscrupulous and unlawful trafficking of arms by some gun merchants, and more importantly, on the root causes of violence – unemployment, poverty, homelessness, failing schools and failing families, child abuse and neglect. No policy on guns will solve the problem of violent crime as long as these scourges remain.
Public safety, like education, health care and infrastructure, is one of those core functions of government that must be maintained as a cost of civilization. Yet in Illinois, it may become yet another victim of our broken tax and budget system, as even our State Police are being threatened with budget cuts. This is unacceptable – and yet another reason to vote for the only candidate who actually has a plan to fix the problem.
Campaign Finance Reform
Our elections should be clean, fair to all candidates, informative, accurate, and reflective of the public will, not the power of big money. I support public financing of elections for those who achieve a certain threshold of small donations (like the system in Maine). I favor a ban on “soft money” contributions, more stringent campaign finance limits on donations in Illinois, and limits on the transfer of funds from party leadership to candidates. I also favor a ban on corporate campaign contributions in Illinois. Despite the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Citizens United case, we can effectively bar corporate interference in the political process by reinvigorating our corporate chartering laws, and imposing a new requirement: That corporations shall not be chartered, nor foreign corporations allowed to do business in Illinois, unless they agree not to engage in speech aimed at influencing its officeholders or candidates, or provide monetary support to any organization that aims to influence officeholders or candidates.
Ethics in Government
As an attorney, I have combated illegal job patronage. As your next governor, I pledge to vigorously enforce the rules of the Rutan decision, that all non-policy-making state jobs be selected on the basis of objective criteria by an independent bureau. I also promise to appoint an Inspector General from an opposition party, to prevent and root out illegal job patronage and help remove the cloud of corruption over our state. I will also fight to create an independent Citizens’ Budget Review Commission, which will conduct a forensic audit of our operating and capital budgets, armed with the authority to subpoena witnesses and documents, to ferret out wasteful pork spending, ghost jobs, inefficient practices and expenditures – and any spending that does not serve a legitimate public purpose. I will fight to end “pay-for-play” in Illinois by banning campaign contributions from state contractors, their owners and officers — and barring the awarding of contracts to any company whose owners or officers had made such a contribution to an incumbent. Contracts should be awarded on the basis of merit, with consideration given to historically disadvantaged groups and under-served communities. I will also look to the recommendations of the Illinois Reform Commission and the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform for further guidance on ethics and campaign finance reform.
I supported the Fair Map Amendment. In lieu of that, the best thing that Illinoisans can do to ensure a fair, rational result is to elect myself and my fellow Green candidates who are running for the General Assembly. We have no vested interest in incumbency to protect; our sole interest is in having more competitive elections, and in having districts that make sense — geographically, socially and economically.
Who Will Run the Executive Branch under the Whitney Administration?
In Illinois, we have a number of very dedicated and knowledgeable citizens groups that have come up with many of the public policy ideas that I am fighting for in this campaign: The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, Voices for Illinois Children, Health-Care for All Illinois, the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Transition Towns, the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association, the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform and the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project – just to name a few. There are also the hundreds of organizations in coalitions such as the Responsible Budget Coalition, the Illinois Environmental Council and the Illinois Coalition for Peace, Justice and the Environment. Both inside and outside Illinois, we have tremendous talent and great public policy minds in the Green Party and in other progressive organizations. I intend to tap into that tremendous body of talent in staffing the top, policy-making positions of a Whitney administration.
But I would not rely on that body alone. The smartest course would be to blend the talents of such creative and innovative thinkers with the underutilized talents of our many genuine career public servants, Democratic, Republican and independent, who have already been carrying out the actual work of providing public services for years. In every agency we have these unsung heroes of government, the people who have been performing their duties conscientiously and admirably, laboring under political appointees of both Democratic and Republican administrations. These are the people who know how to get things done, despite bureaucratic obstacles and political agendas that can get in the way. If elected, I will seek out the best of these career public servants and give them an opportunity to actually administer the agencies that they have served for so long. Good creative and innovative public policy ideas have to be meshed with the nuts-and-bolts of providing public service if they are to become effective. My approach will be to locate the best people representing each kind of talent – and build teams that can best put our sound public policy ideas into practice.
It is difficult to persuade some people of this but there is common ground on the abortion issue. Even the most ardent pro-choice advocate understands that it is desirable to reduce the frequency of abortion, and that should be the unifying goal. I favor creating a full employment economy, the fullest educational opportunities for all, including age-appropriate sex education and parental education, to build strong cohesive families and an environment where women are better enabled to afford to raise children — which will do more to reduce the incidence of abortion than any legislative restrictions. Criminalizing abortion will do little to reduce its frequency; it will only drive it underground again, with unacceptable consequences. Therefore, I do not support additional legal limitations on abortion. I support the Roe v. Wade framework.
When jobs are scarce, many unemployed or underemployed workers understandably tend to blame other workers who are competing for the scarce jobs, instead of directing their anger and frustration at the institutions and policies that caused jobs to be so scarce in the first place. Instead of demonizing or scapegoating undocumented workers, we need to make the pathways to legalization much easier, so that immigrants can openly organize, join the struggle for living wage jobs, and make it easier to enforce our labor laws. We also need to address the real causes of the flow of undocumented workers to the United States: Our agribusiness policies that have ruined many of Mexico’s farmers, and so-called free trade policies like NAFTA that have harmed both nations’ economies. We need to recognize that, in the long run, immigrants have always generated more new business and net gains in jobs. We need to recognize that the corporate media spread a lot of disinformation about immigrants, and that the truth is that undocumented workers typically pay more in taxes than they ever receive in government benefits.
As Governor, my focus will be on creating the kind of healthy, productive economy that will provide quality jobs for all. I will not support an Arizona-type law. I will not allow State workers to participate in police state tactics or racial profiling. I will not blame, criminalize or persecute the victims of a failed national policy but will support Green Party candidates for federal office, who can best address that failed national policy. I will vigorously enforce our labor laws, to halt the extreme exploitation of immigrant workers and put an end to the practices that allow one group of workers to undermine another, to the detriment of all. I will work to build an efficient public sector, adequately and fairly funded, that can deliver quality services and educational opportunities to all – so that all have an equal opportunity to succeed by contributing to society.
My position on the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender persons, and persons of other “unconventional” sexual orientations (queer-identity, intersex, polyamorous and others) can be summarized very succinctly: I stand for equal protection under the law, equal rights in society and the workplace, and for embracing diversity. All persons, regardless of sexual orientation, must be accorded the same rights and the same opportunities to participate fully in all aspects of the life of society. This includes equal rights to employment opportunities, educational opportunities, health care and more. It includes the right to go to a senior prom with a same-sex partner and the right to serve in the military or other branches of government. It includes the right to marry, a current major focus of the LGBT rights movement. We as a society need to recognize the truth that there is great breadth in human nature, human experience and human relations. We need to learn to cherish the freedom and richness it brings to our culture.
Global warming is a disaster already in progress. Other threats, from coal-fired power plants that literally kill thousands of people each year from pollutants, to more insidious threats from nuclear power plants, endocrine disrupters, GMO foods and more, demand rapid and decisive action. Before adopting a policy or position on any issue, we must always consider and weigh the environmental impact. Beyond that, we need to proactively and aggressively promote renewable energy production, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation including real high-speed rail, smart urban planning and redesign, local food production for local use, tough action to control pollutants, a fee-and-dividend system to combat global warming – and adoption of the precautionary principle (until it’s proven safe, don’t put it into the environment) as an operating principle of our public policy. For a genuine Green future, including the new Green jobs that everyone is talking about, we need to get real Greens elected to office!
Militarism and War
Although militarism and war are national issues, they have a tremendous impact on our state. We have lost dozens of National Guardsmen in both the Iraq and Afghan occupations, and countless wounded, both physically and mentally. The economic costs are also unacceptable. With 4.5 percent of the world’s population, we spend more on the military than the rest of the world combined. Every dollar spent represents money taken away from our schools, social services, health care, infrastructure and other pressing social needs. Our state’s share of tax revenue on the Iraq and Afghan occupations alone now stands at about $59 billion, enough money to eliminate our state deficit 4-1/2 times over.
Aggressive war and occupation of other nations is plainly unjustifiable and immoral. It has brought with it the evils of war crimes against civilians, torture, radioactive contamination and environmental destruction, the creation of millions of refugees, and other massive human suffering. It is also illegal. Any Presidential order to commit more troops to Afghanistan or Iraq violates international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, the Geneva Conventions, the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and international agreements dealing with the suppression and control of terrorism. Accordingly, if elected Governor of Illinois, I would honor my commitment to the Constitution and established international law, and assert the Governor’s right to veto any mobilization of the Illinois National Guard for service in Iraq or Afghanistan. I will take on the federal government on this issue. The peace movement, long ignored, but representing the wishes of most Americans, has a candidate in the Governor’s race.
- A forensic audit is a thorough examination of income and expenditures, gathering evidence that could be used in court, to identify fraud and misappropriations. I propose to expand the concept with respect to the budget, to include appropriations that were made for purposes of rewarding political friends or that do not serve a legitimate public purpose.