I understand that jobs which pay a decent wage are at the heart of strong families. I have consistently worked to foster a cooperative business climate that helps employers while respecting the contribution made by employees. As a small business owner, I know what works. Empowering small business through measures such as reducing the total cost to operate, rewarding purchases of products and services within our state and providing benefits to start ups, all combine to foster a business climate that results in secure jobs. Illinois has some of the most talented workers in the nation and I will continue to fight for each and every one of them.
Taxes have stood as an impediment to business while property taxes continue to act as a drag on the budgets of families throughout our state. I sponsored legislation to freeze property taxes and prevent local governments from increasing taxes in years when home prices are dropping. Local governments hired lobbyists to defeat this bill which only made me fight harder. I care about families remaining in their homes. These times of challenging economic conditions are the worst for tax increases. I have opposed every tax and fee increase, voted against the personal and corporate income tax increase, and initiated legislation to disclose where your sales tax dollars are going. I will continue to relentlessly fight against tax increases.
While I am steadfast in opposing tax increases, I also fully understand the need to fund important areas of our government. We need police, firefighters, teachers, roads, human services and more. But the taxpayers are already over taxed. It is upon all of us in the General Assembly to make smart decisions. As a small business owner, I understand how to make a budget smaller while maximizing returns. In my first year, I changed a two decade old process where the legislative leaders developed the budget in backroom meetings. I fought hard for my "Budgeting for Results" legislation which returned the process to the legislators and is done in a bi-partisan, line by line manner. Since its passage, we have spent less, not borrowed, made our debt payments, and engaged in healthy debate about our budget priorities. I am continuing to work with both sides of the aisle to keep our state moving in the right direction.
I will always put people ahead of partisanship and reach across the aisle to get things done on behalf of the citizens of District 59. My duty is to every person in our community. As a freshman legislator, I opposed the income tax increase in spite of pressure from party leaders. I knew the tax increase would hurt working families, and fighting for them is what matters to me. On legislation where I am the primary sponsor, I proactively seek bi-partisan input/support, and I started a bi-partisan caucus that focuses on problem solving and bringing the two parties together.
Providing a solid education for our children is one of the most fundamental duties we have as a community. Every child deserves a world class education, and ensuring this happens is one of my top priorities. I helped pass reforms to make sure we keep the best teachers in the classroom so that our students are prepared to compete in the global economy. I am a member of the Education Caucus, Vice Chair of Higher Education, and host of a local Education Citizen Advisory Committee. I conduct semi-annual gatherings with educators and parents about education reform so that we can generate positive change within Illinois' education system. An educated work force is one of the best investments we can make. It is an important part of making Illinois among the most competitive states in the nation and moving toward our long term fiscal health.
Caring for our environment is one of my top concerns. Endorsed every year by the Sierra Club, I am Vice Chair of the Environmental Health Committee and a member of the bi-partisan Green Caucus. I owned an architectural firm known for designing LEED Gold, Silver and environmentally responsible public buildings, drive an American made hybrid car, and pass numerous environmental bills each year. Most recently I passed a bill to update Illinois' out of date plumbing code to include numerous water conservation measures such as reuse of rainwater and greywater and net metering.
Our men and women who have and are currently serving in the military, have given us their best, and their families have as well. For this reason, I proudly serve on the Veterans Affairs Committee and the very first bill I passed increased penalties on someone attacking a veteran. I also sponsored legislation to increase veterans' job opportunities via priorities dedicated to veteran-owned businesses and a second bill to increase veteran lottery proceeds toward job assistance programs. My office provides numerous veterans' events, including clothing drives for homeless and wounded veterans and job resource fairs.
With so many issues plaguing our state, legislators need to focus on big picture reform. I have sponsored legislation to reform our budget process, reform workers comp, reform our education system, and reform our pension system. I am not afraid to take the tough votes or to stand up to leadership. I am a moderate that listens, seeks compromise, and finds solutions. The best legacy I hope to leave in the General Assembly is "she was a reform leader that brought legislators together to solve the big issues; she was the fresh face that did in fact change the good old boy culture."
Protecting our seniors, making sure they have access to affordable health care, and reducing their property taxes are just some of the issues I have tackled in Springfield. I serve on the Aging Committee and serve as the primary caregiver for my mother. Creating a society that honors the value seniors bring to our community means a great deal to me. To make it easier for individuals to report elder abuse, I sponsored legislation to allow people to report elder abuse confidentially online to help keep seniors safe.
Individuals living with a special need deserve an opportunity to live a rich and full life, contribute to society, choose their living condition, and receive assistance to be as independent as possible. I spent 8 years as a counselor for children who had been burned and it was one of the most valued experiences I have had. I helped pass a new law to expand Human Rights protections to individuals with a mental, psychological, or developmental disability, including autism spectrum disorders. To ensure funding is available for essential disability services, I have reformed the budgeting process to help reduce wasteful spending and bureaucracy.