Shaw Media sent questionnaires to statewide and Congressional candidates throughout the area ahead of the fall election.
Those questionnaires from each candidate who responded, as well as video of candidate interviews with our Editorial Board, are featured on our Election Central website to help readers make informed decisions when they cast their votes.
Name: Peter Roskam
Town of residence: Wheaton
Office sought: 6th Congressional District representative
1. What are the key differences between you and your opponent?
I have a proven track record of working across party lines to get things accomplished for our communities — Sean Casten has a proven track record of saying in his own words and showing by his own actions that he won’t work in a bipartisan way for the good of the Sixth District.
For example, I have worked with constituents with all types of political views to bring our residents significant tax relief, while Sean Casten has run his campaign on repealing those tax cuts. Sean supports raising the income and gas taxes, creating a new carbon tax, imposing an unlimited tax increase for Social Security and even opposes a property tax freeze for the Sixth District.
I have demonstrated my ability to advance policies that benefit our communities and also to stand up to the Trump Administration when they are pursuing the wrong policies. By contrast, Sean regularly uses divisive, troubling rhetoric to divide, not unite. Simply consider his own words: he compared the President to murderous terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, called the Republican Party “The Pedophile Party,” called Republican donors “morons,” and has repeatedly insulted those who simply disagree with his views.
I will continue to work on real problems and achieve real solutions.
2. The amount of state and local taxes that can be deducted on federal returns was capped this year at $10,000. Illinoisans pay some of the highest property taxes in the country and recently were hit with a state income tax hike to boot. How will you work to protect residents from double-taxation?
As a result of the outrageous property and income tax rates imposed on Illinois residents by the state, Illinoisans were in desperate need of real tax relief, and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provided that relief. The Sixth Congressional District alone has received $1 billion in tax cuts.
The new tax law did several things for taxpayers that allow for an overall tax cut for Illinois residents who deal with high property and income taxes: we doubled the child tax credit for families and nearly tripled the qualifying income limit for this credit; we lowered tax rates for taxpayers in every income bracket; and we drastically reduced the number of taxpayers forced to pay the alternative minimum tax, which prevented residents who claimed the SALT deduction from seeing any benefit. In the Sixth District, the alternative minimum tax affected more than 30,000 residents – the vast majority of which will no longer be subject to this arbitrary and unfair tax.
For instance, let's take a family of four (2 kids) making the median income of $135,485. With Illinois's high taxes they will pay an income tax of $6,707. Now let's say they own a home. The average property tax they pay in Illinois for that income bracket is $8,003. That's a total SALT deduction of $14,710 (above the $10,000 cap). If they haven't paid off their house, the average mortgage deduction for that bracket is $8,396. And because this family is generous, they donate $1,000 to charity. Under the TJCA, that family receives $1,896.55 more than they did under the old law.
Taxes in Illinois are out of control and burdening local taxpayers, which is why—in addition to the tax cuts I’ve worked to provide—I’ve signaled support for a property tax freeze which Sixth District residents would benefit from.
3. Do you believe any additional federal gun control measures are warranted? If so, what? If not, why not?
I am truly horrified by the mass shootings that have taken place and claimed innocent lives. While I believe the Second Amendment should be protected, I also believe there are reasonable measures Congress can take to help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals and the mentally ill. That’s why I’ve sponsored and supported policies to help accomplish this important balance:
I cosponsored and helped enact the FIX NICS Act which conditions federal grants to states to maintain effective upkeep of the NICS background checks. I cosponsored the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act to expand the mandatory background check system to cover all commercial firearm sales, including those at gun shows, over the internet or through classified ads. It also allows physicians to enter mental health records into NICS. I urged the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to reevaluate the legality of bump stocks. I cosponsored the Secure our Schools Act to establish a grant program to help schools acquire alert buttons to rapidly contact law enforcement and improve incident response. I cosponsored and helped enact the STOP School Violence Act to help schools implement proven, evidence-based programs and technologies for violence prevention, and it provides $50 million per year to create systems for reporting school threats, including phone apps, hotlines and websites. I voted against the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act which would’ve allowed out-of-state individuals with no license, no permit and no training to carry a concealed weapon in Illinois. I cosponsored the Gun Violence Restraining Order Act which would establish a grant program for states that enact laws to enable relatives, law enforcement and others to petition a court for an order to temporarily stop someone from purchasing a firearm if they pose a threat to themselves or others.
4. What is your opinion on the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election? Would you vote to impeach President Trump?
I support the Mueller investigation. They are serious allegations that warrant a thorough and impartial review.
My ultimate responsibility to the American people is to uphold the oath I took to support and defend the Constitution. On any matter affecting the integrity of our government, I will evaluate the facts with the serious gravity the situation merits.
5. Do you agree with the Trump administration's approach to immigration policy? What is the proper way to enforce America's immigration laws?
I have worked to ensure better treatment for immigrants and to prioritize immigration based on merit — those with military service and educational and work experience would be expedited. The current system of a random lottery for visas would be ended.
When I learned that children were being forcibly separated from their parents at the border, I was appalled. I spoke out against the President’s policy of family separation, and voted to fix the problem.
I recently voted for an immigration bill that addressed my top three priorities for immigration reform: 1. Securing the border; 2. Protecting Dreamers from deportation; and 3. Ending the policy of family separations. While this bill did not pass, I continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that these three priorities are front and center in efforts to craft a solution to the country’s broken immigration system.
6. What is your position on abortion? Should it be a matter of federal law, or should states be free to regulate it as they see fit?
I’m pro-life, as are millions of Americans. In stark contrast with my opponent’s views, Sean Casten celebrates that he would repeal the Hyde Amendment and compel taxpayers to pay for all abortions even if they morally object to it. He also strongly opposes the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act, which bans late-term abortions, including a child in the womb after 20 weeks who is scientifically proven to feel pain.
7. What role should the federal government play in America's health care system? Should the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) be repealed?
It’s no secret that Obamacare has been a failure and I voted to repeal it. A 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that "Premiums for individual market coverage have increased significantly since the ACA’s key provisions took effect.” In Illinois, according to the HHS data, the average monthly premiums in the individual market more than doubled between 2013 and 2017, increasing by 108%. A third of enrollees on the federal exchange will have the choice of only one carrier this year. I voted in favor of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and there are several aspects of that bill that I think need to be included in any replacement of Obamacare.
The replacement must:
Protect pre-existing conditions Protect employers’ ability to offer health benefits to employees Protect Medicaid for the disabled, elderly and impoverished Provide generous tax credits to people who don’t get coverage at work or have access to Medicaid or Medicare.
Our successful repeal of the individual mandate penalty eliminated an unwise tax that harmed low- and middle income families. According to the IRS, 92 percent of the 6.1 million households that paid the penalty earned less than $75,000 per year. Of that number, 5.2 million earned less than $50,000 per year, and 2.5 million households earned less than $25,000 per year. These are the families that can least afford another punitive tax. I'm proud that we were able to eliminate this ineffective provision of Obamacare.
The health reform I supported protected taxpayers by decreasing the federal budget deficit and curbing healthcare costs while offering patients greater health care options. Creating choice in the marketplace and reducing fraud are both essential to ensuring that Americans have access to high-quality, affordable healthcare.
8. What is your stance on international trade? Do you agree with the tariffs imposed by the Trump Administration in the name of national security?
I’ve been a vocal critic of the tariffs. As I’ve said, tariffs are taxes, and they’re taxes that are impacting a large number of industries including the manufacturing companies in the Sixth District. When we passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and did away with burdensome regulations, we made way for a robust and thriving economy. Our focus must continue to be increasing economic growth and bringing more jobs back to the U.S. and I’m not convinced that these tariffs, particularly on steel and aluminum, will help do that.
Contrary to what President Trump seems to think, trade wars are not easy to win. And the collateral damage is the companies and farmers across the country that rely on international trade to operate their businesses. I’ve urged this Administration to consider the hardworking Americans and local manufacturers that are being hurt by their tariffs and to treat our allies around the world with fairness so that they continue to support the growth of American commerce in the same way.
Additionally, Chicagoland in particular benefits immensely from foreign direct investment. In fact, Chicago was ranked the number one city in North America for foreign direct investment for 2017 and 2018. These aren’t PO boxes for foreign companies - these are Illinoisans put to work in good paying positions. We should be embracing, not fighting, these companies looking to operate in our backyard.
I am committed to advancing the policies that best serve our families and communities, and when President Trump is taking the wrong approach on trade, I won't be afraid to tell him there's a better way, and our Illinois companies and workers can help show the way.
9. What’s your assessment of the job the federal government does in caring for military veterans? How can services be improved?
Ever since the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal broke in 2014, we have heard hundreds of stories concerning systemic delayed medical care and wait list fraud at veteran healthcare facilities nationwide. Since then the House has taken crucial steps to pass legislation to reforming the VA and restoring accountability throughout the entire system.
Veterans and their families have made great sacrifices for their country and we must continue to stay vigilant of the Department to make the men and women of the armed forces are receiving the best medical care and treatment. It has always been a priority of mine to assist veterans and my office has completed over 600 veteran cases.
10. Is there an important issue in the federal government that has not received adequate attention? How would you solve it?
We must be honest about where the country is in terms of government spending. Too often, policy discussions focus on admirable aims and ignore financial realities. According to CBO, in 2017, the government spent $1.2 trillion in discretionary spending and $2.5 trillion in mandatory spending. $1.6 trillion of that went to Medicare and Social Security. All spending allocated by Congress from FY2017 was $400 billion less than the amount “automatically” spent on Medicare and Social Security.
The nation has made important promises to retirees that they’ll receive benefits, and those promises must be honored, but we must make changes to ensure that Medicare and Social Security exist when our children and grandchildren need them. In Illinois, we know the devastating impacts of a guaranteed pension system that isn’t properly funded.
Waste and fraud in Medicare continue to drain the system. I’ve lead congressional hearings on the disparity between the lack of protections against Medicare fraud and the fraud rate in the private sector. According to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), in 2017, the Medicare Fee for Service fraud rate was almost 10%. Whereas, the global fraud rate among credit card companies was .07% on a staggering $30 trillion of transactions. Think about the magnitude of that massive failure by government programs. The flawed pay-and-chase model doesn’t use data analysis or predictive analytics to identify fraud before taxpayer money is out the door.
I sponsored the Medicare Common Access Card (CAC) Act, which ensures Medicare claims are verified using smart-chip technology. By implementing it, we can reduce Medicare fraud, save taxpayers money and improve patient care. It’s a necessary step to update our procedures, protect seniors’ access to care and guard against government waste. The private sector has already deployed these technologies—the government must catch up.