David Olsen: Candidate profile
Name: David Olsen
City: Downers Grove
Office sought: State Representative, District 81
Occupation: State Representative, 81st District
Education: B.S. Finance & B.S. Management, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2011; H.S. Diploma, Downers Grove South High Scholl, 2007
Civic involvement: Board Member, Education Foundation of Downers Grove District 58; Civic Member, Chamber630
Elected offices held: Village Commissioner & Mayor Pro Tem, Downers Grove Village Council, 2013-2016; Member & Vice Chairman, College of DuPage Board of Trustees, 2016-2017; State Representative, 81st District, 2016-Present
Questions & Answers
Would you vote to approve a graduated income tax? If so, what qualifiers would you impose and where would you set the brackets? What would the top tax rate be?
A flat state income tax is one of the very few advantages Illinois has over our neighboring states. Enacting a graduated income tax hike would further accelerate the exodus of residents and businesses from Illinois, so I would not vote to approve a graduated income tax. Even more troubling is the lack of proposed brackets for the potential switch. The middle class cannot afford another massive tax increase like this proposed graduated tax would likely impose on them. It would be highly irresponsible to give the General Assembly a blank check to raise taxes on the middle class and all Illinoisans without any details -- and no restrictions on the General Assembly's authority. Illinoisans of all political affiliations are opposed to continued tax increases on the middle class.
How big a problem is the level of property taxation in Illinois? If you view it as a problem, what should be done about it?
Our ever-increasing property taxes are accelerating the exodus from our state. For many, it simply doesn't make financial sense to stay in Illinois and it is heartbreaking when seniors and families are forced from their homes.
We often cite the burden these excessive property taxes are placing on seniors with fixed incomes, which is a serious and acute worry. If they are forced to sell their homes, younger homebuyers are as wary about purchasing into the situation seniors are now facing. This is impacting both ends of the spectrum for the worse. When a young person sees a senior who has paid off their mortgage now paying more in real estate taxes than they ever did on their mortgage, it sends a stark message about choosing Illinois as a place to raise a family.
To stop this migration, we need to reduce tax rates, cut wasteful spending, and enact pro-growth policies to ensure economic growth. Specifically, I authored or co-sponsored many pieces of legislation to help seniors keep their homes and stay in Illinois during their retirement years. I am the author of HB 4695, which would increase the senior citizens homestead exemption to $8,000 for all counties. I am also the chief co-sponsor of many bills (HB 277, HB 381, HB 2728, HB 2563, HB 3246) that would increase the maximum income limit for the senior property tax freeze to $75,000.
What is your evaluation of Gov. Rauner's job performance? Please specify what you view as its highs and lows.
Gov. Bruce Rauner had the misfortune of coming into office when our state had a stagnant economy, sky-high property taxes, wildly out of balance budgets, a pension problem and two recent governors either behind bars or just released. These problems that our state must grapple with were built over the past 40 years, not the past four.
During his first campaign and at the start of his administration, Governor Rauner put forward many solutions for our troubling issues. Unfortunately, he was subsequently blocked at every turn. Special interest groups defended the status quo and extreme partisans successfully demanded the obstruction of any reform that would be considered a 'win' for the governor. The brinkmanship and inability to compromise on both sides was shameful. Bipartisan cooperation to enact reforms is needed to bring back Illinois.
Yet despite being the only Republican statewide officeholder throughout the past four years, Gov. Rauner was able to work with the legislature to rewrite the education funding formula, modernize the state's IT systems, enact criminal justice reform, and fight for taxpayers. His advocacy for term limits, fair maps, and a more ethical government should also be commended.
I strongly believe that some of the best legislation comes from working together. If Gov. Rauner is re-elected, I sincerely hope that he has learned from his past mistakes and decides to compromise more in a second term to achieve additional reforms and results for Illinois.
What is your evaluation of Speaker Michael Madigan's job performance? If you voted for him for speaker in the last legislative session, please explain your vote.
For almost a half century, Speaker Michael Madigan has been a part of every single major policy decision that has led our state down the wrong path. He exemplifies the reasons why we need term limits, fair maps, and ethics reform. I look forward to the day when our state has a new Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and our state government returns to an appropriate balance of power. We should ensure that this much power never lands in the hands of one person again.
Should there be term limits for legislative leaders? If so, what would you do to make that happen? What other systemic changes should be made to strengthen the voice of individual legislators, limit the control of legislative leaders, encourage bipartisanship?
Term limits will help elections become more competitive and make elected officials more accountable to voters. That's why I support term limits and have co-sponsored legislation which would put term limits in place for legislative leaders. I support implementing term limits for all legislators and constitutional officers as well.
How concerned should we be about Illinois' population loss? What needs to be done to reverse the trend?
The out-migration of Illinoisans is one of the most serious issues that we must address. The first and most important thing we should do to help keep jobs and people here is actually listen to and seek input from our local business community. That's why I regularly meet with members of Chamber630, the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, and other local business groups. Moreover, I try to personally welcome each and every business that opens in the 81st District.
Businesses and residents alike recognize the tremendous natural advantages we have in Illinois -- including our location as a central transportation hub, fresh water, agriculture, natural resources, and so much more. What I am hearing on the ground from business owners, executives, managers, and employees is that they need certainty to help them plan for more hiring and more reinvestment. They also need us to remove burdensome regulations that get in the way of growth. Other states have made strides in this direction and we need to join them. Rest assured that I will continue to back pro-growth policies that help small businesses grow, expand, and stay in Illinois.
Please provide one example that demonstrates your independence from your party.
For me, serving as state representative is about representing the district and serving all constituents. I vote with the party when it is appropriate for my district and I vote against the party when it does not make sense for my district.
While many Republicans in the legislature felt the Equal Rights Amendment was not necessary due to existing laws on the books that already protect women, I strongly believe we needed to reaffirm that discrimination against women is wrong. To that end, I voted for the Equal Rights Amendment and also broke with my party to support HB 4163, a bill to promote equal pay for women by prohibiting employers from screening applicants using wage history. Finding ways to close the pay gap between men and women should be a priority and I will maintain my support for efforts that promote equality of opportunity for all.
What other issues are important to you as a candidate for this office?
Illinois has the most levels of government out of all 50 states -- by far. Should I have the honor of again serving the General Assembly, I will continue to push for more local government consolidation when it makes sense and saves money for taxpayers. This past session, I was thrilled when Democrats and Republicans were able to came together to consolidate the DuPage County Election Commission into the Clerk's Office, which is projected to save $300,000 annually, improve efficiencies, and streamline election reporting. I also joined forces with my Democratic legislative colleagues from DuPage County to pass a bill to ease hurdles for consolidation of mosquito abatement districts.
In addition to those bills that recently became law, I worked in a bipartisan manner to allow the DuPage consolidation model to be expanded statewide last year. By simplifying the process through which consolidation can occur, unnecessary or duplicative layers of government can be eliminated and the burden on taxpayers can be reduced. As State Representative, I will keep up my efforts to reduce the size, scope, and cost of government.
In addition, here a few questions meant to provide more personal insight into you as a person:
What's the hardest decision you ever had to make?
Stepping into the public arena in my first run for Downers Grove Village Council was a very difficult decision. I have always believed in serving others in my community -- but seeking elected office brings much scrutiny and additional pressures both personally and professionally. But I have never regretted making that decision and cherish the opportunity to work on behalf of my community.
Who is your hero?
Edmund G. Ross, U.S. Senator, 1866-1871
Each amendment in the Bill of Rights is important, but which one of those 10 is most precious to you?
The freedoms protected by our Bill of Rights are what make America a model of democracy around the world. Perhaps the most important freedom is our right to speech. This freedom ensures that we can openly and honestly disagree with one another -- which allows us to protect the other freedoms guaranteed in our Bill of Rights.
What lesson of youth has been most important to you as an adult?
Think back to a time you failed at something. What did you learn from it?
You don't always succeed on the first try, or even your second. Success comes from hard work and persistence.