“Litesa Wallace won’t stop until government works for everyone.”

ANDREA GONZÁLEZ-RAMÍREZ
REFINERY 29

“Litesa Wallace won’t stop until government works for everyone.”

ANDREA GONZÁLEZ-RAMÍREZ
REFINERY 29

Issues

Childcare

Today, when I look in the mirror, I see a strong and successful woman — a Congressional candidate with a doctorate from a major university. But not so many years ago, I was a newly single mother with a young son, wondering how I was going to pick up the pieces of my life, complete my education and build a brighter future for our little family.

It wasn’t easy trying to go to school, hold down a couple of part-time jobs and still be a good mother to my son. But I was able to make it all work because I had access to affordable childcare that was partially subsidized by the state of Illinois.

Now I want to make sure that every parent in Illinois has that same opportunity to get an education and move forward in life. So when I get to Congress, I will fight hard to expand affordable childcare programs for parents who are working lower-wage jobs or who are in school or training programs.

Right now, many Illinois parents simply can’t afford to pay for good, reliable childcare. Paying average costs for day care for a 4-year-old would eat up more than half of a minimum wage worker’s annual income — and care for an infant would cost almost three-fourths of that worker’s paycheck.

Obviously, we can’t expect parents to pay more than half of their income for childcare. On minimum wage, it’s a struggle just to keep a roof over your family and food on the table – and even middle-class families have a tough time finding high quality, affordable childcare. Yet instead of making it easier for hard-working parents to access reliable day care so they can go to work or go to school, some Republicans in Congress want to cut federal funding for child care programs.

It is just cruel to force lower-income parents to pull their children away from trusted day care providers. But beyond that, it’s terrible public policy. When parents lose their childcare assistance, they often have to quit their jobs. When parents can’t afford care, childcare centers close their doors — putting even more people out of work. By investing in childcare, we can actually reduce unemployment costs while increasing tax receipts.

The state of Illinois made a good investment in my son and me during those tough years when I needed some extra help. When I get to Congress, I will work hard to make sure that every mother and father in our state has the same chance I had — to fulfill my potential, achieve my dreams, and build a strong future for myself and my child.

Tax Fairness

Here’s a fact that makes my blood boil: After two years of COVID-19, America’s billionaires have piled up an extra $1.7 TRILLION – and thanks to one or two giant loopholes in the U.S. tax code, that massive increase in wealth may never be taxed.

It is absolutely immoral that hard-working middle-class people in the 17th District are dutifully paying their taxes while the billionaire class enjoy all the benefits of Trump’s so-called “tax reform.” The vast majority of the Trump tax cuts went to wealthy people who didn’t need help, while low- and middle-income households got left behind. I support real tax reform that will reward hard work – not unearned wealth– and that will put more money in the pockets of working people who are struggling to get by.

I support raising the top tax rate for households that earn more than $400,000 a year, and I believe those additional tax revenues should be invested in education, health care, infrastructure, and the environment. We also need to close the tax loopholes that exempt billionaires from paying their fair share and that provide lavish breaks for corporations that outsource jobs at the expense of Illinois workers.

In Congress, I promise to push for tax reforms that will benefit the middle class – not the billionaire class – and make it easier for Illinois families to make ends meet.

Health Care

A couple days ago, someone asked me about my position on health care policy. I said I support anything that will help the people of my district get better access to high-quality care that won’t bankrupt them and their families. The guy kind of chuckled and said he hoped I would work to develop a more sophisticated policy.

But here’s the thing: I understand how Congress works. The reality is that most of the nitty-gritty work of crafting our national health policy is done by a handful of committee members and their staff, guided by tons of research and hours of Congressional hearings. As a new member of Congress, it will be my job to read the bill carefully and then cast my vote based on whether the new law will help more people in my district to access decent, affordable healthcare.

Over the past few months, a major hospital in Galesburg has closed its doors permanently, while Rockford’s historic safety net hospital has stopped providing in-patient care at its original location on the city’s West Side. Other hospitals in our communities are struggling to stay afloat as they deal with wave after wave of pandemic patients.

I care deeply about healthcare, and I think policy differences and details are important. But whether we’re talking about Medicare for All, or expanding the public option under Obamacare, or increasing federal funding for rural hospitals, or just dropping the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60, I’ll be voting based on the needs of the people I serve.

Reproductive Freedom

I am pro-choice, with no exceptions. As a mother, I know just how personal – and sometimes, how difficult – decisions about reproductive choice can be, and I believe every woman has the right to make these decisions for herself.

I am horrified, and terrified, by the ongoing attacks on women’s rights by Republican extremists across the country. I fear that this partisan-led Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and give states the go-ahead to invade our fundamental rights to make private decisions about our own bodies and our own lives.

The late, great Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When Government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”

Now more than ever, we need a government that respects every woman’s basic human rights. Like the majority of people in this district, I believe we can trust women to make decisions that are right for their health, their families, and their lives.

When I get to Congress, I will fight hard for every woman’s right to choose, no matter where she lives, so that every woman in America has safe, affordable access to full reproductive healthcare, without restriction and without fear.

Environment and Climate Change

When we talk about climate change, we need to talk about public health, environmental justice, and economic growth, and we need to understand that all of these crucial issues are wound tightly together. As we face the increasing evidence that greenhouse gas emissions are fueling a climate catastrophe, we need to work together to find comprehensive, innovative, and pragmatic solutions – and we need to do it now.

With its acres and acres of open farmland, the 17th District is poised to be a leader in the production of biofuels and solar and wind energy. With wise federal investments in green energy, we can create hundreds of new jobs in our district while doing our part to fight climate change.

To make sure that everyone in our district and our state has clean water to drink and clean air to breathe, I’ll work hard to rebuild the Environmental Protection Agency and repair the damage done by the Trump Administration. We also need to invest in water and sewer systems plants, to make sure that all the people living in Illinois have access to clean drinking water, no matter where they live or how much money they make.

As we move forward, the pressures of climate change will have an impact on every aspect of our lives. We all have a duty to do whatever we can to protect the environment, working together across party lines to prevent climate catastrophe. Our children and our grandchildren are counting on us.

Housing

When my mom bought a house, it changed all of our lives. After years of moving from apartment to apartment, we had a place of our own to call home. Our neighborhood schools offered a quality education, and I made lasting friendships with my schoolmates. My sister and I could play in the back yard, and my mom developed unexpected skills as an amateur plumber and carpenter. When she sold that house after almost 30 years, the proceeds from the sale helped to keep her afloat as she moved into retirement.

A safe, affordable home is the stable foundation that every one of us needs to survive and thrive. Today, there are thousands of hard-working people in the 17th district who simply can’t afford a decent place to live, and there are thousands and thousands more who are handing over half their paychecks each month just to keep a roof over their heads. That’s just wrong.

Our national failure to invest in housing affects all of us. People who lack stable housing are much less likely to find and keep jobs, which inflicts economic harm on their own families, on the local labor market, and on the community as a whole.

For people who fall into homelessness, the obstacles to employment begin at the very top of a job application, which asks them to give their address. But the costs of homelessness go far beyond their own lost wages. The public cost of providing healthcare, emergency housing, and other services to people without homes is staggering. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has estimated that taxpayers spend about $40,000 a year for each chronically homeless person living on the streets. Keeping people safely housed is a win-win, on humanitarian and on fiscal grounds.

When I led the City of Rockford’s Human Services Department, I brought together housing advocates, developers, and city leaders to create a new Community Housing Development Organization, so Rockford could access millions of dollars in federal housing funds. Today that new organization is working with developers to buy and rehab older housing and build new units to meet the needs of local families.

As your representative in Congress, I’ll keep on fighting for federal funds to build new, high-quality housing for renters and help more people become homeowners.

My mom’s house changed my life forever. I want everyone in the 17th District to have that same opportunity to establish a safe, comfortable home for themselves and the people they love.

Veterans

For generations, men and women in my family have bravely stepped up to serve our nation. My great-grandfather, Percy Wallace, served in World War I, and my own dad enlisted in the Navy and served in the Vietnam War. So I understand the sacrifices that our veterans have made to defend this country, and I believe that all of us owe a debt of profound gratitude to those who serve in the Armed Forces.

As a State Representative, I worked hard to pass a new law that protects Illinois veterans from employment discrimination and lets employers know that it’s illegal to turn down a job applicant because of their military status. I also joined my colleagues in establishing the Illinois’ Veteran Suicide Taskforce, to help identify returning veterans whose service puts them at high risk and to offer new resources to veterans and their families who need additional support.

When I get to Congress, I will keep on fighting for our veterans and their families.

  • I will stand up for our VA hospitals, which provide a model level of care for our veterans, and I will advocate to make sure the VA has the funding it needs to improve facilities, hire staff, and reach out to eligible veterans.
  • I will support increased federal funding for veterans’ services, including housing assistance, childcare, and education/training programs to help our veterans succeed in the workplace.
  • I will advocate for women-centered programs to make sure our female veterans have access to programs that specifically address their needs – including support services for survivors of sexual harassment and abuse.

Our country exists today because of the millions of men and women who have bravely put themselves in harm’s way to defend our democracy. As your representative in Congress, I will fight to make sure our veterans’ voices are heard and that they and their families are treated with the respect and admiration they deserve.

Voting Rights

My dad was only 21 in (year) when he joined the military – just a kid, really. He bravely put his life on the line, every day. But when he came back home to Mississippi, he didn’t receive the hero’s welcome he deserved. Instead, he was denied his right to vote – just like millions of Black patriots.

Thanks to the Civil Rights movement, Black people in the South finally were able to exercise their right to vote. But now, those rights are once again under attack. That’s outrageous – and it should scare every single person in this country who cares about democracy.

I’m running to represent Illinois’ 17th District because I am committed down to my bones to fighting for a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

It makes me furious that Republicans – and even a couple of Democrats – who posted sugary statements online on Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday are now doing everything they can to dismantle his legacy and take us back to Jim Crow.

We can’t let that happen. I’m running for Congress because I believe that every citizen deserves an equal vote. Our democracy needs every voice, now more than ever.

Education

The quality of your child’s education should not depend on your zip code. We need to create an educational system that gives every child and young adult the opportunity to learn, to discover, to grow, and to thrive.

This issue matters so much to me. Every day, I am thankful for the public schools and universities that made it possible for me to graduate college, earn my doctorate, pursue a professional career, and build a life for myself and my son.

But as I look back, I realize that many of the kids I grew up with needed more educational support and opportunity than our local schools could provide. That’s a tragedy, for those individuals and for our communities.

We can’t afford to keep sending children to substandard schools. We can’t afford to waste creativity and brain power. From pre-kindergarten all the way through to college, we need to build a fully funded public education system that prepares students for the careers of their choice.

Not every kid winds up going to college, and that’s okay. Sitting in a classroom for four more years after high school isn’t for everybody. With a generation of plumbers, electricians and other skilled tradespeople retiring, there’s a lot of opportunity out there for young people just starting out, as well as older people who are looking for better career opportunities. But we need to make sure that all these people have access to affordable, high-quality training programs that will help them get where they want to go in life.

We also need to figure out a way to get students through college without taking on decades’ worth of debt. As someone who’s still paying off my own student loans, I know how much the burden of that debt has restricted my choices in life. As a nation, we need to take a look at the enormous impact that the combined $1.7 TRILLION in student debt is having on our entire economy. Personally, I think forgiving student loans across the board makes great economic sense. But at the very least, we need to cap interest rates for student borrowers and expand loan forgiveness programs for teachers, doctors, nurses, mental health workers, and others who devote themselves – and their educations – to serving their communities.

Agriculture

Illinois feeds the world, and the products of the 17th District’s farms and fields make their way to homes and tables all around the globe.

This state was built on agriculture, and we need to do more to support farms, farm workers, and the many small businesses that work together to make up our farm economy. Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new attention to the challenges facing Illinois farm families, while inflation has carved holes in the budgets of farmers and consumers alike.

We need to remember that food programs designed to help struggling families and fight hunger ultimately put more money in farmers’ pockets. So increased funding for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and school meal programs is a win-win for everyone.  

As we look to the future, we need to come up with smart, effective ways to reduce agriculture’s impacts on climate change while helping our farmers to prepare for hotter temperatures and extreme weather.

In Congress, I will put small farmers first. We will continue to fight to protect the interests of Illinois farmers and ensure they have the support they need, while investing in food security and health for all Illinoisians.

When it comes right down to it, our lives depend on the farmers whose hard work puts food on our tables. When I get to Congress, I’ll fight hard for Illinois farmers and their families.

Rural Broadband

Whether you’re working from home, going to school, or running a business, it’s almost impossible to succeed if you don’t have access to high-speed internet service. Yet many rural communities still don’t have the broadband access they need to compete and thrive.

I believe that broadband access is a fundamental part of our national infrastructure, just like roads and bridges. When I get to Congress, I’ll fight to make sure that everyone in Illinois has access to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet service that will keep them connected with friends, family – and customers – across the country and around the world.

Criminal Justice Reform

We all deserve to feel safe in our homes and on our streets. We all deserve to feel protected by the people who are sworn to enforce the law. We all deserve equal treatment by our criminal justice system.

I believe we have to fight rising crime in every way we can. That means investing in our schools, so that young people have the skills they need to find good jobs and build productive lives. That means rebuilding our local economies, so that people in our towns and cities can get good jobs at decent wages to support themselves and their families. That also means getting illegal guns off our streets and out of the hands of criminals and abusers.

We also need to find ways to rebuild the trust between our law enforcement officers and the people of our communities. We need to go beyond chokehold bans and body camera requirements and start addressing the deep divisions that separate our police departments and the people they are sworn to serve and protect.

Every one of us has a stake in rebuilding our criminal justice system in ways that will increase safety, guarantee fairness, and help us to establish communities of mutual trust. When I get to Congress, I promise to fight for new federal laws and programs that will help us to achieve our long-sought dream of justice for all.