Dan Ugaste: Candidate profile, Illinois House District 65
Democrat Martha Paschke of Geneva and Republican Dan Ugaste of Geneva are vying for the Illinois House District 65 in the Nov. 3 general election.
Ugaste, a lawyer who specializes in workers' compensation defense, was first elected to the district in 2018.
Paschke is a patient intake coordinator at a psychology practice seeking her first elected office.
House District 65 includes all of Pingree Grove and portions of Batavia, St. Charles, Geneva, South Elgin, Elgin, Hampshire and Huntley.
Q: Should Speaker Madigan resign from his leadership positions? If he does not resign, will you support him for a new term as House speaker?
A: Given the revelations and evidence in the scandals surrounding him and his party, from Department of Justice, state investigations and news media inquiries into sexual harassment, ghost payrolling, and conflicts of interest, I called for Madigan to resign from the Speakership, the House of Representatives and every one of his Democratic Party political posts.
In this, I have been joined by 53 prominent Illinois Democrats. It is clear at this point he serves no interest but his own.
This is not a court of law. This is about good, ethical leadership in government at a time when it is desperately needed. As representatives, we are all leaders in our communities.
As Speaker and leader of one of our two major political parties, Speaker Madigan must meet even higher standards. I never have, and I never will, vote for Mike Madigan to serve as the Speaker of the House.
Q: What is the biggest challenge facing your district and how do you propose tackling it in the legislature?
A: Property tax relief, general relief from increased taxes, increased fees and increased spending, as well as the elimination of government corruption. People are telling me they are leaving due to the above.
I have submitted multiple bills proposing tax relief, government consolidation and cost saving measures to no avail. I have also worked with other legislators on ethics reform. I intend to keep trying to fix our problems.
Q: The graduated income tax is designed with the intent to reduce taxes for 97 percent of Illinoisans. Do you believe that will happen? Why or why not? What assurances can be given to voters?
A: I am against the graduated income tax and spoke at length on the House Floor against it. This tax will just cause greater harm to our economy without repairing (or event attempting to repair) our financial problems.
If it passes, I believe it will be only a few short years before the middle class taxpayers will face a tax increase as well. Protection against future tax hikes will only come through the careful selection of candidates with views similar to my own.
Q: ComEd officials have acknowledged in an agreement with the federal government that it funneled money through contractors to friends and colleagues of Illinois Speaker Michael Madigan. What do you think should happen as a result of this. Specifically, how should potential legislation impacting ComEd be handled next session?
A: I believe the Department of Justice, not the state legislature, will determine what will happen in the future in regard to the investigation and prosecution.
In regard to future legislation or administrative regulation, any utility regulation legislation should be judged on its merits alone. Any revelations stemming from the DOJ investigation may not be made public or verified until next year. Utility legislation and administrative regulation have to be viewed for their impact on the whole industry, not just one company.
Q: Describe at least two circumstances in which you have shown or would show a willingness and capacity to act independently of the direction or demands of party leadership.
A: I split with my party on Coal Ash Pollution Prevention, SB9. Also, independent of leadership, I filed bills to return all bail money to those found not guilty of a crime (HB 4497) and to restructure the amount required for a matching grant for a pre-K facility based on the tiers of the Evidence Based School Funding Formula (HB 3847).
As I have always said, governing is a balancing act.
Q: How would you rate the governor's handling of the COVID-19 crisis? Does the legislature need to have more input and influence in establishing rules and policies related to stemming the spread of the disease? What you have done differently, if anything? If nothing, please say so.
A: I think the governor initially did the right things, but has gone about the reopening in the wrong way. The first and primary problem I have is the reluctance of the governor to recognize that he is not omnipotent in dealing with the crisis, but should be working with the legislature to continue extreme emergency measures more than 30 days.
The language of the Illinois Emergency Management Act specifically states that the governor may exercise specific emergency powers for a period "not to exceed 30 days" (20 ILCS 335 (7)), yet the combined length of the various closings mandated by Gov. Pritzker in his Executive Orders goes far beyond that. I proposed that we change the law in May before the legislature adjourned and Pritzker should have joined those efforts, not fought them.
I also believe he should have initially taken a more regional approach to the reopening, as well as making certain that all rules and restrictions treated all people and businesses the same.
Q: Regardless of whether the federal government provides assistance, what is the impact of the pandemic on the state's economic outlook and what immediate and long-term actions should be taken to address it? Would you support increasing taxes to pay for COVID-19 response or to make up for lost revenue related to COVID-19?
A: Illinois' fiscal downward spiral was not caused by the pandemic, just sped up by it. Decades of fiscal irresponsibility needs to be reversed and it will be painful for every segment of Illinois' population.
Regardless of who and what are to blame for our current fiscal predicament and unsustainable pension problem, the reality of fixing the problem requires reducing spending, eliminating borrowing, and changing the Illinois Constitution to allow for a voluntary renegotiation of our pension debt with our public employee unions.
We also need to address property tax relief and business reforms, such as workers' compensation reform, to attract more businesses and people to the state. Growing our tax base is the only way we will solve our problems.
Q: Do you support any type of tax on retirement benefits?
Q: Should Illinois prohibit lawmakers from lobbying other levels of government? Should lawmakers be prohibited from becoming lobbyists after their term in office? For how long?
A: Yes. I already signed on to co-sponsor a bill that prohibits legislators from lobbying other levels of government. I also have co-sponsored bills that would require a 2- or 3-year waiting period before a legislator could lobby Springfield. While I would prefer a 3-year period away from the Capitol, I would accept 2 years since it is better than what we have now.
Q: What are the most important components that should be included in legislative ethics reform? What will you do to help them come to pass?
A: We need to restrict legislators from lobbying. We need to close the revolving door from the Capitol to becoming a lobbyist and insist on a waiting period of no less than 2 years. We need greater disclosure on our Statements of Economic Interest. I will put my full support behind them and work tirelessly, if needed, to get them passed as soon as we can get a hearing from the Speaker on well-written bills that achieve these goals.
Q: What should the state do to address the still-growing problems with its key pension programs?
A: We need to start by putting all new state hires into a defined contribution system and not a defined benefit system. Amend the Illinois Constitution to allow for a voluntary renegotiation of our pension obligations with our public employee unions.
Q: Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should state government be taking to address the issue?
A: Whether human activity is the sole cause, I do not know. I do know that many of our actions are not helping and we all need to start concerning ourselves more with the future of our planet.
As a state, we should promote technology, materials and programs that lessen pollution but make certain we take a reasonable and well balanced approach so as not to price ourselves out of needed jobs and strap our already over taxed citizenry with excessive costs.
As I mentioned previously, governing is a balancing act.
Q: Protesters have massed in the streets in Chicago and other cities across Illinois for greater social justice and changes in the funding and responsibilities for police. How significant a role does systemic racism play in limiting equal opportunity in Illinois? To the degree that it exists, what should be done about it? What, if any, changes should be made in funding and duties of police?
A: All people are equal in the eyes of the law and should be treated as such. If any government official or employee applies the law unequally that person should be removed. If a policy or system is found to be prejudicial in nature it should be removed or replaced.
But the law and the government do not control the personal prejudices and opinions of the individual citizens that make up our society. The powers of the Illinois General Assembly do not extend to heart and mind control, so regardless of what laws we pass and how the courts interpret them, our actions will not change how people regard each other and who they choose to associate with professionally or socially.
Therefore, we must ALL lead by example and work to remove such mindsets by promoting better understanding among all people.
Funding for police should not be diminished in relation to their public safety duties. In fact, we probably need to find a way to help increase funding, if possible, for more and better training.
And while I do not support defunding our police, I do acknowledge the need to better fund services that should, and I am certain will, reduce crime.