Illinois House Republican leader Jim Durkin is the Sun-Times’ endorsed candidate in the 82nd district race. His opponent in the general election is Democrat Tom Chlystek.
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent nominees for the Illinois House of Representatives a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois and their districts. Durkin submitted the following responses:
Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.
Durkin: Last session, we passed the first balanced budget our state has seen in decades. We need to continue that trend in passing balance budgets without gimmicks or additional burdens on Illinois families and businesses. That’s the only way we can reverse the exodus out of Illinois and encourage job creation here. We can achieve this by enacting real pension reform, instituting reforms in areas like procurement, improving the way Medicaid and other social services are administered, reducing Medicaid fraud, better utilizing state assets, and yes, reducing state spending in many areas.
Please list three concerns that are highly specific to your district, such as a project that should be undertaken or a state policy related to some local issue that must be changed.
- For years, I have pushed to eliminate an archaic and unnecessary government body called the Lyons Township School Treasurer from any involvement or authority with Lyons Township High School. Other local schools have now asked for the same authority to eliminate the involvement with the Lyons Township treasurer. The mission of the TTO is no longer necessary for most schools in any district in the county. After working together with the Senate, the General Assembly passed a resolution to this issue in the Spring.
- Lemont residents have been burdened with high noise levels caused by the expansion of the I-355 tollway. I will work towards bringing sound walls to the Lemont neighborhoods affected by this issue.
- I am currently working with local governments in the western suburbs to help mitigate forthcoming disruption with the resurfacing and expansion of Interstate 294.
Who is Jim Durkin?
He’s running for: Illinois House of Representatives, 82nd District His political/civic background:
- Misercordia Board of Advisors
- John Marshall Board of Trutrees
- John McCain for President Illinois Chairman (2000, 2008)
His occupation: Attorney His education:
- Illinois State University
- John Marshall Law School
Campaign website: jimdurkin.com
What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?
Durkin: My opponent will support Michael Madigan for Speaker of the Illinois House.
Illinois is now the sixth-most populated state, down from No. 5, after 33,703 people moved out between July 2016 and July 2017. What must the Legislature do to make Illinois a more desirable place to live?
Durkin: Residents are leaving because Illinois needs fundamental changes at all levels. We need to start by implementing government reforms that will help control costs, enact tax and regulatory policy changes – including worker’s compensation reform and property tax relief – that will help grow jobs. We need to grow jobs instead of the income tax rate. And yes, we need political reforms that will help restore residents’ confidence in their government.
In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?
Durkin: I do not support re-amortizing the debt as that will just push off debt to future generations. In the immediate future, we must pass another pension reform bill and allow the courts to review. Before we resort to a constitutional amendment, we must explore all other options including President Cullerton’s consideration model – the model supported by the We Are One coalition. I introduced HB 4027 last session which provides these reforms and passed the bill from committee but it’s currently dormant in Rules committee. We are approaching year three since the state Supreme Court ruled SB1 unconstitutional. The time for waiting should be over.
From 2000 to 2016, the number of Illinois residents who enrolled as college freshmen outside the state increased by 73% (20,507 to 35,445). Why are so many more Illinois residents going to college elsewhere? What should be done to encourage more of them to go to school here?
Durkin: We need to support our public universities while also holding them accountable for bloated bureaucratic and legacy costs. By consolidating the Board of Higher Education, Community College Board and the Student Assistance Commission, we can create a more focused approach to higher education that ensures all Illinois students are given the best opportunities for success. I support efforts to freeze tuition and also believe the best way to keep students here is by showing them that they can be confident in a career here once they graduate.
What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?
Durkin: I was the lead sponsor and negotiator on a bill to increase penalties for second time gun offenders. Prosecutors and the judicial system have the tools in place to crack down on career criminals, but they need to use them.
On-demand scheduling software now helps large retail companies determine how many staff members they will need on a day-to-day or even hour-to-hour basis. The downside is that employees may not receive their work schedules until the last minute. Oregon and a number of cities have responded by adopting “fair scheduling” laws. Would it be appropriate for the Illinois Legislature to pass a “fair scheduling” law? Please explain. What would such a law look like?
Durkin: In an ever-changing retail environment, I understand the need for employers to create the most efficient process possible to be able to stay viable. However, I believe that the especially competitive jobs market we see today will cause employers to reevaluate this scheduling issue.
Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
Durkin: I do not support the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Opioid overdoses and fatalities continue to rise in number. In Illinois in 2017, there were 13,395 opioid overdoses, including 2,110 deaths. What should the Legislature do, if anything, about this?
Durkin: I supported and negotiated HB 1 in 2015, where we made a major investment in curbing this terrible tragedy that knows no economic nor geographic boundary. In the session ahead, I hope we can take more action to address overdoses and improve treatment options for those addicted to opioids. Recently the General Assembly passed, with my support, a bill to help opioid abusers get medical cannabis to wean themselves off the terrible drug.
The Future Energy Jobs Act, passed in 2016, is generating job growth in renewable energy and improving energy efficiency. Do you agree or disagree with the objectives and substance of the Act? What more — or less — should be done?
Durkin: The bill was extremely important to protect the power supply in Illinois and also move our state’s energy production into the 21st century. I would hope the General Assembly takes some time to see the results of this bill before we move forward on additional energy policy.
What would you do to ensure the long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid program? What is your view on managed care for Medicaid beneficiaries?
Durkin: I believe strengthening redetermination efforts is critical, and I support the movement from a fee-for-service model to managed care. Doing so should both improve health outcomes and better control and manage costs.
Underfunding at the Department of Corrections has led to troubling findings by the auditor general that many inmates don’t receive services or opportunities for work while incarcerated. Is this a legitimate concern? What should the Legislature do?
Durkin: The Department of Corrections job is not only to protect of citizens but also rehabilitate those incarcerated to prevent recidivism. Recently we worked on bills to allow prisoners to become licensed by the state for certain professions so that employment is easier to find. I hope that we can expand the use of skill training centers once we see the results of our new Murphysboro and Kewanee facility.
Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?
Durkin: I do not support brining back parole for this type of offender.
Ahead of the historic 2018 elections, the Sun-Times is teaming up weekly with the Better Government Association, in print and online, to fact-check the truthfulness of the candidates. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.