Betsy Dirksen Londrigan of Springfield is challenging GOP Representative Rodney Davis of Taylorville for a second time in Illinois’ 13th Congressional District.
The race will be a highly-watched rematch between the two candidates after Davis narrowly defeated Londrigan by about 2,000 votes in the 2018 midterms. If elected, Londrigan would be the first Democrat to represent the district since 1895.
Both candidates have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, Londrigan self-quarantined for two weeks after coming in contact with an infected person, and Davis announced in August he had tested positive for the disease.
Each candidate has raised nearly the same amount of campaign money. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Davis has raised nearly $3 million while Londrigan has received $2.8 million in campaign donations.
The Center Square sent both candidates an election questionnaire see where they stand on these issues.
1. The U.S. unemployment rate soared to record highs as governments placed restrictions on individuals and businesses to slow the spread of COVID-19. What federal policies are needed to return the U.S. economy to pre-pandemic levels?
Davis: In Congress, I’ve worked with both parties on COVID-19 economic relief legislation. I was proud to support the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in the bipartisan CARES Act, which provided lifeline loans to small business all across the country, saving over 50 million American jobs, including several million jobs in Illinois. The goal of PPP loans was to enable small businesses to keep employees on the payroll, even if local economies have been shut down. That program was successful, but we need to expand on it. While PPP funds are still available, we should continue that program to ensure that our mom and pop shops and other small businesses are able to access those lifeline loans if they haven’t done so already.
We can also boost our economy by providing student loan relief. I worked with a Democratic colleague to introduce legislation, the Employer Participation in Repayment Act, to incentivize employers to help employees pay off their student loan debt by making these student loan payments tax exempt up to $5,250 a year. I’m proud to say that our legislation was signed into law through the CARES Act, but it is only temporary. I believe we should make this tax credit permanent and increase the tax exempt cap, allowing for even more student loan relief.
Londrigan: I believe we still lack a coordinated national response to the pandemic which must include large scale testing and manufacturing of Personal Protective Equipment. Many people are still unable to return to work right now and Congress must extend unemployment benefits for the millions of Americans who still need help. The Paycheck Protection Program helped some, but access to these loans proved uneven and many businesses, especially minority-owned small businesses, were unable to access these needed funds. Many local businesses still need help to stay afloat and we need additional funding for programs like PPP as well as turning some of the previous loans into grants for businesses who haven’t rebounded. These programs, however, must ensure fair and equal access to available funds as well as provide strong oversight to ensure the fraud and waste we are now discovering does not take place again.
2. What other tax policies do you support? Would you vote to raise taxes? Explain.
Davis: Unlike my opponent Betsy Londrigan, I do not support raising taxes. In the previous Congress, I supported tax reform that lowered income taxes, doubled the standard deduction, expanded child tax credits, and more. According to IRS data, this law saves the average family of 4 earning roughly $78,500 over $2,200 a year in federal income taxes.
I want to make these tax cuts permanent, but many Democrats, including my opponent, want to repeal them. That would be irresponsible, especially as this pandemic hurts our economy. Our communities can’t afford a tax hike.
I believe we can further reform our tax code to help Americans deal with the challenges created by the pandemic. One way is by easing student debt, like through the proposal I mentioned in greater detail in the question above. I introduced legislation that allows employers to make tax-free payments to their employees’ student debt, up to $5,250 a year. A temporary version of this proposal was included in the CARES Act, but we should make this benefit permanent and expand it.
Londrigan: Despite repeated claims that the 2017 tax bill would pay for itself, the CBO concluded that revenues have fallen each year as a share of the economy and the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center released an analysis that the top 20% of wage-earners received over 60% of the tax savings. Additionally, no one is talking about the nearly $2 trillion dollars the tax bill is projected to add to our debt. Instead of tax cuts for the super wealthy and large corporations, I support middle-class tax benefits that grow our economy, such as raising the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. I am in favor of a minimum corporate tax to maintain a floor that can’t be circumvented as well as helping employers to provide student loan repayment contributions pre-tax as a benefit and raising the cap for educational assistance for employees to $10,000 and index for inflation.
3. A number of states are tackling criminal justice reform. What criminal justice reform policies do you support?
Davis: Now is the time to come together so we can work to enact police reform on a bipartisan basis, while also giving law enforcement the tools and resources they need to safely and equitably do their jobs. It’s unfortunate that Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats have blocked debate over police reform legislation. They would rather play political games and push their own partisan proposal than work together on this issue. We have a chance to enact real, meaningful police reform, but we can only do so if both sides are willing to work together.
I support the police reforms outlined in South Carolina Tim Scott’s JUSTICE Act, which I co-sponsor in the House. The JUSTICE ACT improves law enforcement transparency through additional reporting on use of force and no-knock warrants; ensures law enforcement accountability by providing $500 million for state and local law enforcement agencies to equip all officers with body cameras; bans the use of chokeholds for situations in which use of deadly force is not authorized; requires the Attorney General to develop training curricula for law enforcement officers, including excessive force and de-escalation techniques; and more.
Londrigan: I believe both parties can find common ground on this crucial issue, but only if we listen to our Black and Brown communities. Systemic racism exists in every corner of America and we must work together to address its effects and reform a clearly broken system. We must help local governments ensure their law enforcement budgets allow for intervention by other professionals, such as those specializing in addiction and mental health services, recognizing that not every situation requires an armed response. I also support requiring that law enforcement attend implicit bias and crisis intervention training as well as helping local government and making federal funding for law enforcement contingent on the implementation of reforms like those aimed at combatting racial profiling and banning the use of chokeholds. Democrats and Republicans must also work together to decrease the militarization of our local police departments.
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