Dan Yost: Candidate profile, Illinois House District 61
In the race for Illinois House from District 61, Antioch Republican Dan Yost is challenging incumbent Democrat Joyce Mason of Gurnee.
District 61 includes Antioch, Winthrop Harbor, Beach Park, Gurnee and Zion, among other towns in the northeast corner of the state.
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. Yes, he should resign from all of his leadership positions. Illinois needs change in leadership if we are going to change the trajectory of our state. After 40 years, it should be clear to everyone that, guilty or not, change is not something we can expect under Speaker Madigan's leadership.
We need to put an end to the culture of corruption and give residents the confidence that their government is working for them and not the political class in Springfield. That won't happen as long as Speaker Madigan remains in power.
This is not a partisan issue. Reform-minded Democrats have also called on Speaker Madigan to resign. If elected, I absolutely will not and never will support him as House Speaker.
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. No lawmaker should be using their power and influence to profit from lobbying other levels of government, that's just wrong. We need to remove the conflicts of interest built into our system here in Illinois, it's time! I also think that they should be prohibited from becoming lobbyists after they leave office, probably for 2-3 years, similar to what private business uses for noncompete clauses.
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 ban legislators from working as lobbyists and limit how quickly former legislators can become lobbyists and ensure transparency around that specific activity so we can follow the money trail. If elected, I will be a consistent voice and "yes" vote for meaningful and substantive ethics reform legislation. I will also lead by example. I want to go to Springfield as a servant leader to help the people of our community and ensure government works for them.
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. Nobody was prepared for this pandemic, so I think he did an OK job overall. There are a few things I think he should have done differently:
• He should have involved the legislature after the first 30-day emergency order. This should be something we have more perspectives on rather than fewer.
• The contradictions regarding the treatment of small business and "essential business" hurt a lot of families and community businesses. The same goes for how he treated small communities like Antioch, with the same rules as the Chicago loop. Reasonable people should have been able to come together and resolve these issues sooner in a way that caused the least amount of harm and disruption.
• He should have kept the politics out of the discussion, it makes people question the motives, and I really don't believe anyone benefited from it.
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. I think the pandemic, combined with the state's prolonged lockdown, will have a devastating impact on our economy here in Illinois. Unfortunately, decades of financial mismanagement have left us few options. We have a declining population, one of the highest tax burdens in the country, an already unbalanced budget and a pension crisis.
Had we taken steps sooner to address our financial situation, we would likely find ourselves in a much better position to weather a financial storm. I think a logical person would look at the current situation, people and businesses fleeing Illinois for lower tax, lower cost of living states and say, "won't higher taxes shrink Illinois more?"
The reality is our only option is to begin reducing spending and reforming our pension system so we can begin to lower our property taxes and address the root causes of our problems. To be clear, I do not support raising taxes, I think that would exacerbate the problems we have.
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 oppose this idea. I do not believe that the middle class, or anyone quite honestly, can or will be protected from future hikes. It's common sense. We have some of the least trustworthy politicians in the nation, and one of the most corrupt governments, but we are supposed to take them at their word that they won't hike taxes on middle-class families?
They've already indicated that this is the first step toward taxing retiree benefits. If people want assurances that they won't be the next segment of our population to be taxed, then the only way to do that is to vote against the amendment. I believe politicians need less power, not more, especially ours.
Q. Do you support any type of tax on retirement benefits?
A. No, just like I wouldn't try to reduce pensions for existing pension participants, we shouldn't change the rules in the middle of the game for our other retirees either. I just don't understand how, on the one hand, you tell people "plan for retirement" and when they do, and they do it well and probably with some sacrifice, you come back and say we need to adjust the plan because it worked too well for you. Let's look at spending before we start looking at revenues. I think we owe that to our citizens. The revenue side of the balance sheet should be a last resort.
Q. What should the state do to address the still-growing problems with its key pension programs?
A. First, I think we need to be honest about the extent of the problem. I believe it's much worse than the state claims it is, nearly double what the State tells us. Unfortunately, and I've seen this firsthand as a Trustee, the statutory reporting requirements are not realistic, they are not actuarially based and they are not based on real, historical returns.
Private businesses have to abide by all kinds of transparency rules, from where products are made to calories on a menu, we need to bring transparency to our government. We also need to have a constitutional amendment to allow us to address the systemic reforms needed to preserve benefits for retirees while creating fairness for taxpayers.
I don't have a preconceived notion of what systemic reform should look like, I believe we should look to examples in both the private and public sector for best practices. I think that some of the things we will need to look at are early retirement provisions, the automatic COLA adjustment for pre-2011 retirees and a new, fully funded plan, for new hires.
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. As a newcomer, I don't have a preconceived notion of where I can work with members of the other party. The job of legislators is to listen to and solve problems for the people they represent. That's going to require some compromise, but that compromise should be on behalf of the families of Illinois and not the politicians.
I am committed to doing the right thing for those I represent. As a Trustee, I have clearly demonstrated a willingness to act independently not only of my peers but also of those who have supported me. In one instance, a local business was requesting a variance. This business owner had supported me in my Trustee campaign, but I voted against the request because it was contrary to the stated strategic objective of the village.
It's important that those who support me, either financially or in volunteer efforts, understand that what that their support gets is principled leadership. This may not be a good political strategy, but it's the truth. I will be guided by principles and a desire to make Illinois a better place for families and small business.
Q. Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should state government be taking to address the issue?
A. I understand that human activity impacts the environment. I also understand that natural fluctuations impact it as well, and understanding the impact of each is a challenge. I guess I would describe myself as a common-sense centrist on this issue. I try and follow the data and change what I can control.
I worry that much like other things, our science has become too politicized in order to try and make it fit a particular narrative. For me, the focus needs to be on weighing the costs and benefits of acting and understanding how to act in a productive manner that minimizes the pain inflicted on working families, while also protecting our environment for future generations and safeguarding the health and safety of our kids.
When I look at state government and their history of corruption around energy bills, I really don't trust the politicians in charge to act in an ethical manner driven by science as opposed their own personal agendas."
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. My instinct is to learn, ask questions and try to gain understanding. I've learned that most of us are unaware that we have friends, neighbors and family who head out every day without discussing the fears they face, conversations they have with their kids, or the challenges they face in daily life, like just going for a walk or playing in the park. I've heard this directly from neighbors, friends and family.
We need to understand that these experiences and feelings are real and are more prevalent than we realize, not isolated incidences. Recent polls indicate that fewer than 20% of Black Americans feel very confident that police would treat them with courtesy and respect, but 81% of Black Americans want the same level of police presence or more in their neighborhood.
Perhaps we should be asking if our police are funded enough to attract and retain and appropriately train the police we want at the levels we need. I believe locally we have well-trained police officers who got into law enforcement to serve and protect.
Unfortunately, there are always going to be bad people, and they must be replaced and stopped from moving to another community imposing their hate.