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Congresswoman Nikki Budzinski is a lifelong champion for working families, a Springfield resident and the proud Representative for Illinois’ 13th Congressional District.
A native of Illinois, Nikki knows that our communities thrive when the middle class is strong. But for too long, working hard and playing by the rules hasn’t been paying off like it should. She believes that families deserve better, and she’s spent her entire career fighting to help restore the American Dream for people like her grandpa, a union painter, and her grandma, a public school teacher.
That’s why she joined the labor movement, and fought to get firefighters, grocery workers and meatpackers better training, wages and workplace safety protections. It’s why she led negotiations to raise Illinois’ minimum wage to $15 an hour and chaired the Broadband Advisory Board to expand internet access to rural communities. And it’s why she helped the Biden-Harris Administration implement the American Rescue Plan and establish the Made in America Office to create jobs and strengthen our economy.
Nikki came to Congress to build on that work. As she brings the voices of people in Central and Southern Illinois to Washington, she’s focused on putting their needs over petty politics, reaching for compromise and delivering results for the communities she serves.
Nikki graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign – a school she’s now honored to represent.
Tackling Gas And Energy Prices
Putting gas in your car, cooling your home in the summer, and heating it in the winter are a few of our most basic everyday needs. Yet, we have seen energy prices skyrocket while reliability goes down.
These are unacceptable outcomes. The hard-working, middle-class people of Central and Southern Illinois can’t afford massive price hikes in things so necessary for everyday life.
In Congress, I will fight to bring down the cost of gas by taking action to:
Take action to freeze the gas tax for immediate relief
Implement year-round E-15 blend to provide immediate relief at the pump and support Illinois farmers
As we are dealing with rising costs, boosting domestic oil and gas production and drilling on federal lands to provide short-term economic relief
Support energy policies that bridge us to a clean energy economy, including supporting natural gas and nuclear energy
Continue to release oil from U.S. strategic reserves
Enact a windfall profit tax on oil and gas companies to make sure oil companies aren’t profiting at our expense
Expand electric vehicles and building a national charging network that is supported with union labor
Middle-Class Tax Relief And Fighting Inflation
Fighting inflation is the most important issue we are facing. Working people in Central and Southern Illinois are hurting, and they need relief right now. We need a leader in Congress who will fight every day to make sure working families are not getting left behind.
There are some short-term solutions to inflation that Congress needs to act on today to provide immediate relief to working people. But ultimately, this is not a problem that occurred over night. Decades of Democrats and Republicans have contributed by allowing our jobs to be shipped overseas, exporting manufacturing from America to China, and allowing China to become the global economic leader that America used to be. In addition to short term measures, I support ideas that will increase American manufacturing so we can start to make things at home again.
Repeal the Trump tax cuts that benefit the super-rich over working people
Extend the child tax cut for working families
Allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices to lower prescription drug costs
Cap the cost of life-saving drugs like insulin at $35
Invest in union apprenticeship programs to promote alternatives to a 4-year college degree and a path to a debt-free, high-paying trades career
Support the Competes Act to bring manufacturing back to America and decrease inflation by relieving stress on global supply lines
Fighting for working families is my life’s work. It is what I’ve dedicated my entire career to. For too long, working families in Central and Southern Illinois haven’t had a true advocate in Congress. I want to be that advocate and fight for them. That is the reason I am running for Congress.
Working families, especially in Central and Southern Illinois, are struggling. I believe our recovery from the pandemic should leave no one behind. We should be prioritizing working families and communities of color that have been left behind and disproportionately impacted by COVID19. A fact the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare and made all the more urgent to address. This would be a top priority in Congress for me.
When I worked for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, I toured meatpacking facilities and saw union workers—many of them immigrants—working dangerous jobs to provide us with the food we need. In addition to improving safety and working conditions, our union advocated at the state and federal level for access to paid sick leave for workers.
I was proud to work on behalf of fire fighters and first responders to ensure they have the equipment and protections they needed to have safe working conditions.
I strongly believe that when workers can collectively bargain, they not only earn better wages and benefits, but can ensure safer working conditions. I will also be an advocate to make sure workers have a steady and reliable income in retirement after a lifetime of work by protecting hard-earned pensions.
Working with Gov. J. B. Pritzker, legislative leaders, labor and business, I helped lead the fight to pass a $15 minimum wage, making sure nobody who works full time in Illinois remains in poverty. We need to do the same at the federal level.
This is a unique moment in our nation’s history. Long before the pandemic, the gaps between rich and poor in America were an enormous divide. As we work to get our economy back on track and address economic and social injustice that have been part of our economy since long before March 2020, I believe we need a bold agenda to directly benefit working people, especially those who have been hit the hardest by stagnating wages and skyrocketing costs, especially in child care and health care. So many essential workers across Illinois and across the country – from nurses and other health care workers to grocery store workers and fire fighters – have sacrificed so much, and we owe it to them to provide the support they need.
Putting Money in Workers’ Pockets
- Invest in working families, child care, public education, affordable housing, health care, and more while cutting taxes on the middle class, paid for by making those earning more than $400,000 kick in their fair share
- Raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour at the federal level
- Extend the child tax cut and make child care less expensive
- Make health care more affordable by strengthening the ACA and creating a public option
- Create job training programs that give hard-working kids and adults the tools to get a better job or a raise
- Lowering the cost of prescription drugs
Strengthening Workers’ Rights
- Leading the charge to pass the PRO Act
- Pass mandatory paid sick and medical leave
- Guarantee the fundamental right to collectively bargain for better pay, safety conditions, and other job factors
The fact is, too many politicians today have lost sight of the people they were elected to represent in Washington. We need elected leaders who are in it for the right reasons, and are drawn to public service because they truly care about workers. In Congress, I will continue my life’s work of fighting tirelessly for working families, so that all Illinoisans can live dignified lives and earn a living wage.
I believe that health care is a right, not a privilege.
I was never more aware of the importance of health care than after my nephew was born with Down syndrome and had to have open heart surgery when he was just four months old. Thankfully, my sister’s family had insurance through her employer, and they were able to enroll him in an intervention program when he was just a few months old. Without the coverage they had, they never would have been able to afford the intensive care my nephew received—and that was just in the first few months of his life.
When I was first starting my business, the ability to easily access health care through the ACA was essential in providing the flexibility and stability I needed to get off the ground, but not everyone is so lucky. We need to make health care both more affordable and more accessible for everyone. That is why I support a public option, so we can move our society forward and ensure that everyone—regardless of where they live or work, or how much they earn—can access the care they need.
In Congress, I will work to expand access to telehealth. Americans have greatly benefited from the expansion of telehealth, especially in rural communities like Central and Southern Illinois. Telehealth is more cost effective and provides more flexibility for patients to access care. I will advocate expanding telehealth services on a permanent basis to ensure that telehealth remains an option for Medicare beneficiaries now and after the pandemic.
Unfortunately, too many Illinois families still don’t have access to the affordable, high-quality health insurance that my sister’s family depended on for the health of their family. Despite significant gains under the Affordable Care Act, over 800,000 Illinoisians remain uninsured today. That is unacceptable.
And while many still struggle to access care at all, others find the care they do have is unaffordable. This includes so many seniors who rely on Medicare for their coverage but face ever-rising prescription drug costs from the pharmaceutical industry. That, too, has to stop.
I also support strengthening Medicare and making it work for the nearly 2 million Illinois seniors who depend on it for care. We should find ways to expand Medicare coverage to include dental, hearing, and vision; while also pursuing strategies to make overall care more affordable, such as by allowing Medicare to negotiate for prescription drug prices, lowering the costs for the federal government and seniors alike. Additionally, I believe we need to work toward preventative measures more widely to stave off another pandemic.
Making Health Care More Affordable
- Allow Medicare to negotiate for prescription drug prices so seniors can afford the medications they need
- Expand Medicare coverage to include more services, including dental, hearing, and vision.
- Introduce a public option to keep insurers honest on price hikes
In Congress, I will put people first—not Big Pharma and insurance companies—by working to get more people more affordable health care.
I am 100% pro-choice. I believe that a woman should be able to make her own reproductive health care decisions. Those decisions should be made between a woman and her doctor, without the interference of the federal government or anyone else. I know women personally who have faced those decisions, and I understand that they are some of the most difficult that any of us face in life.
I have been horrified by the attacks on women’s reproductive rights that we have seen across the country in recent years, in Texas and other states. Not since before Roe v. Wade has a woman’s right to choose been under such existential attacks, as opponents of choice look to pass more and more restrictive laws that strip us of our rights.
Protecting a Woman’s Right to Choose
- Fight to protect Roe v. Wade from anti-choice attacks, so that women can access safe and legal reproductive health care, regardless of where they live
- Protect Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health care organizations from efforts to defund services for women and families
- Support the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which limits reproductive health care services for low-income women
In Congress, I will be a steadfast advocate for a woman’s right to choose, so that all women, in Illinois and around the country, are able to access the health care services they need.
Our immigration system is badly broken and in need of reform. The fact that millions of immigrants continue to live in the shadows in this country—while working essential jobs, paying taxes, and raising families—speaks for itself. We are a nation of immigrants, but too many politicians continue to vilify and scapegoat the very immigrants who we depend on in countless ways, and who are our neighbors, our coworkers, and our friends.
When I worked for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, I saw firsthand how broken our system really is. I saw a largely immigrant workforce working incredibly dangerous jobs, producing the food that many of us eat without thinking once about where it came from or who played a role in delivering it safely to our grocery stores and dinner tables. Yet instead of prioritizing ways to keep workers safe or crack down on employer abuses of vulnerable workers, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) leadership would order workplace raids to instill fear in immigrant workers and undermine the power of unions like UFCW, which often is the only source of legal help to undocumented immigrants. The Biden administration’s recent guidance halting such workplace raids is a definitive step in the right direction. But we need to do more to protect our essential workers and help undocumented immigrants work legally.
Passing Real Immigration Reform
- Create a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, farmworkers, and immigrants covered by Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
- Work toward creating pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants already live here and pay taxes
- Protect workers from workplace raids that unfairly target undocumented immigrants while ignoring the problem of employer abuses
- Expand H-2A and H-2B visas to allow employers to fill open positions and get our economy back on track
In Congress, I will work with lawmakers from both parties to pass bipartisan immigration reform that is so long overdue.
Environment And Climate Change
From the water we drink to the air we breathe and the parks we recreate in, preserving and protecting our environment is among our most essential tasks to ensuring a high-quality, healthy life—for ourselves, our children, and future generations. At the same time, climate change remains an existential threat to all of us, and to our ability to maintain our way of life. But it is also a challenge that comes with the opportunity to reimagine what our economy, our energy systems, and our environment can and should look like.
Here in Illinois, I was part of building a coalition of workers to transition our economy to clean energy. We worked to find solutions to questions about how best to invest in clean energy and what strategies to use to achieve zero carbon emissions. The answers to those questions will shape not just our environment, but our economy for generations to come. As we transition to clean, renewable energy like wind and solar instead of fossil fuels, we need to do so in a way that also creates good-paying, union jobs and doesn’t leave people behind—particularly those who live in communities where environmental injustice has exposed people of color to air pollution and PFAs. Let’s make America a leader in clean energy, creating jobs and reducing our dependence on foreign energy from unstable regimes around the world.
Preserving the Environment
Provide more funding and resources for clean air and clean water in our communities and strengthen federal air and water protections
Protect public lands from oil drilling and environmental degradation and parks and open spaces from overdevelopment and contamination
Building a Clean Energy Economy
Invest in solar, onshore and offshore wind, and other forms of renewable energy to quickly transition the country off of fossil fuels
Train workers to meet future demand for solar and wind and provide new work and career opportunities in high-paying, high-growth jobs, especially in Central and Southern Illinois communities struggling with job loss and low wages
Create equity and access to economic opportunity for communities of color across Central and Southern Illinois by making sure that communities of color are recruited for high paying union jobs.
In Congress, I will not pass the buck when it comes to tackling the climate crisis and fighting for clean air and clean water for all of our communities, because the stakes are simply too high not to take action.
The housing affordability crisis has touched communities big and small across Illinois and across the nation. While the moratorium on evictions and billions of dollars in federal rental assistance aid helped keep countless families in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, it did little to solve the long-standing issues of housing instability and affordability. Today, millions of households continue to pay more than half of their income in rent, and more than ten million households are not caught up on their rent, with people of color disproportionately affected.
Addressing Housing Affordability
- Expand the Housing Choice Voucher program so that more low-income families can access rental assistance and obtain stable long-term housing solutions
- Invest in the Housing Trust Fund in order to increase the supply of affordable housing nationwide and in Illinois
In Congress, I will advocate for real solutions to the housing challenges facing low- and middle-income families that have only been made worse by the pandemic.
When Republicans in Congress—or the White House—talk about tax reform, they usually are talking about cutting taxes for the rich and corporations, not the rest of us. The vast majority of the Trump tax cuts went to those who needed it the least, while low- and middle-income households got left behind. We need real tax reform that rewards work, not wealth, and puts money in the middle and working’ classes pockets.
Passing Meaningful Tax Reform
- Tax cuts—not tax hikes—for middle-class and working households.
- Raise the tax rate for households earning more than $400,000 per year to help fund investments in education, health care, infrastructure, and the environment.
- Close tax loopholes and end tax breaks for corporations that outsource jobs at the expense of Illinois workers.
In Congress, I promise to push for tax reforms that actually help average Illinois families, not false reforms that make our system more unequal and unfair than it already is.
My grandfathers served our country in World War II as a member of the Navy and instilled in me a deep respect for all of those who have enlisted in the Armed Forces and put their lives on the line. But while we revere the service of so many young men and women in uniform, too often our government lets them down when they move on from active-duty service or retire. Our veterans deserve better. Quite simply, we cannot ask for such a huge sacrifice from so many of our best and brightest young people if we aren’t willing to fully support and invest in their lives after the military. That means providing world-class health care and rehabilitation services; it means creating continuing education and skills training opportunities; it means providing housing assistance for those in need.
Supporting Our Veterans
- Ensure full funding for the VA in order to eliminate backlogs and get veterans the care they need in a timely manner
- Increase funding for various veterans’ services, including housing assistance, child care, and education and employment, including the VET TEC program
- Provide greater investments in veterans’ mental health and suicide prevention services to combat the problems of veteran suicide and PTSD
In Congress, I will be an advocate for our veterans, because I believe our veterans deserve nothing less than the full support of all of us who have depended on their service.
I went to public schools, and I credit the education I received there with making me the person I am today. And I am a strong believer in the need to invest in our public education system, because I believe that public schools are our greatest opportunity to be an equalizer in our communities, giving everyone, no matter their background, a chance to get ahead in life. But inadequate funding for our education system—at the local, state, and federal level; from pre-k through higher education—has let our students down. To those who say we can’t afford to spend more on education, I say, we can’t afford not to.
Early childhood education is one of the smartest investments we can make—not just for our children, and their future, but also to build a stronger and more equitable economy. Indeed, studies have shown a return of as much as $17 per $1 invested in early education when taking into account the long-term effects to society. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the dire need for so many families when it comes to caring for their children, with respondents in one survey citing child care obligations as their greatest barrier to returning to the workforce.
I believe that the right path forward is making pre-kindergarten education truly universal. We also need to make greater investments in high-quality child care programs and educators while also addressing the twin problems of affordability and accessibility for working families.
We need to work to expand job training programs, trade schools, and union apprenticeships, so kids who want to work hard can learn a trade and make a good living. We need to expand pathways for careers outside of traditional four-year college programs. The nation is facing a shortage of skilled tradespeople as plumbers, electricians and others retire, holding back economic growth and presenting opportunities for young people and those displaced by a changing economy to land good-paying jobs.
Expanding Early Education
- Limit the cost of child care for low- and middle-income families and invest in expanding child care services so that parents are able to both access and afford the care they need
- Make high-quality, full-day Pre-k education universal so that all children reach kindergarten ready to learn
- Attract the best and brightest to work in early education and incentivize improvements in public and private child care and pre-k settings
Making Higher Education Work
- Expand career and technical education (CTE) opportunities by investing more in vocational education, union apprenticeships, and other training programs
- Make two years of community college tuition-free for all students
- Find student debt relief solutions, including by limiting interest rates for borrowers and expanding public service loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment plans
In Congress, education will be one of my top priorities, from high-quality child care and universal Pre-K to skills training and solving the student debt crisis.
The Opioid Crises
The opioid epidemic has had an incomprehensible effect on families across the country. In big cities and small towns, blue states and red ones, rich households and poor, too many lives have been lost to a scourge that was created in large part by the abuses of pharmaceutical companies and lack of access to mental health services. In 2018 alone, more than 2,000 Illinoisans died of opioid overdoses. And these numbers still don’t account for the countless lives, families, and careers that have been harmed in ways both big and small from the toll of opioid addiction, even when it doesn’t result in death. It has to stop.
The opioid crisis was declared a nationwide public health emergency in 2017, but the COVID-19 pandemic has only made the problem worse, while also drawing attention away from urgent solutions that are needed. Nearly every state in the union saw a spike in overdose deaths in the first eight months of 2020 compared to a year earlier, with Illinois near the top of the list—deaths increased by 41.5%.
Combatting the Opioid Epidemic
- Increase funding for grants to state and local programs that provide addiction treatment and services statewide
- Expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and mental health care
- Invest in broadband statewide in order to expand telehealth options, allowing those in rural areas to more easily access drug treatment, mental health, and addiction specialists
- Extend and expand flexibility regarding telehealth services at rural clinics and elsewhere, which were authorized during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Crackdown on Big Pharma and continue to hold drug companies accountable for their role in creating the epidemic
In Congress, I will treat the opioid epidemic just as seriously as the COVID-19 pandemic, both of which have taken the lives of far too many Central and Southern Illinoisans.
Southwestern Illinois is the “horseradish capital of the world,” but we also produce significant amounts of corn, soy, and countless other crops on farms both big and small. We have to do more to support the families and small businesses that provide the food that we all depend on, as farmers struggle more and more every year to literally put food on the table and make a living. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed cracks in our food system, and just how precarious business is for many family farmers. Farm consolidation, extreme weather, and climate change also continue to pose significant challenges that need to be addressed.
We also need to provide more, not less, funding for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school meal programs, and urban farming initiatives, all of which provide food security for countless low- and middle-income families across Illinois. We also need to support local food systems by providing support to small and family-owned farms.
Protecting Our Small Farmers
- Help farmers big and small improve soil health while protecting the environment and preparing for extreme weather and a warming climate
- Provide more funding for a variety of food security programs
- Address the issue of farm consolidation that is pushing more and more small farmers out of business
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.
Criminal Justice Reform
We don’t have to make a choice between safety and justice. In fact, we can create a criminal justice system that not only keeps our communities safe by addressing the root causes of crime and getting illegal guns off our streets, but also that ensures all Illinoisians are treated fairly.
Illinois’s recently passed landmark criminal justice reform legislation is a definitive step in the right direction, with important provisions on bail reform, sentencing guidelines, and policing, including a ban on chokeholds and body camera mandate for officers. However, we need more action at the federal level
Making Our Communities Safer
- Target resources toward getting illegal guns off our streets and out of the hands of criminals
- Invest in smart, community-based policing techniques that improve trust in our police forces while reducing crime and making us all safer
- Address mental health issues that can contribute to violence and crime
Building a Fairer System
- Reform sentencing and bail regulations to be fairer
- Stop over-policing minor, non-violent offenses that contribute to mass incarceration while doing nothing to improve community safety
In Congress, I will work toward finding bipartisan solutions to addressing violence in our communities big and small, and will push for smart reforms to our criminal justice system.
Democracy And Elections
Our politics is broken. Washington has become increasingly polarized, leading to less bipartisanship and more gridlock and inaction. Too many of our political leaders no longer feel beholden to the citizens they are supposed to be representing in Congress, voting instead for special interests and putting party and power before people. Republicans in some states, rather than lose elections, are trying to weaken people’s right to vote and change the rules so they can stay in power even if they lose.
We cannot fix Congress without fixing our elections. Attacks on voting rights and access to the ballot box have become widespread in recent years. Meanwhile, the flood of money unleashed by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision a decade ago has corrupted our elections and drowned out the voices of ordinary Americans.
Making It Easier to Vote
- Restore and modernize the Voting Rights Act
- Improve access to the polls by expanding early voting and mail-in/absentee voting
- Enact automatic voter registration
Getting Big Money Out of Politics
- Get dark money out of politics by requiring disclosures for all large-dollar donations
- Crack down on super PACs by overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court decision
In Congress, I will be a voice for fair and free elections, fighting to expand voting rights, make it easier to vote, reduce the influence of big money in our elections, and create an electoral system that serves everyone, not just a few.