Illinois House 81st District Republican nominee: David S. Olsen

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Republican David Olsen is the Sun-Times’ endorsed candidate in the 81st district race in the Illinois House. He faces a challenge from Democrat Anne Stava-Murray.

The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates seeking nominations 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.

Olsen submitted the following responses to the questionnaire, and watch the video above to learn why he’s running for re-election.

Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.

Olsen: Illinois has tremendous natural advantages – our location as a central transportation hub, fresh water, agriculture, natural resources, and so much more. Yet it seems that most news highlights people and businesses leaving Illinois – and the numbers confirm Illinois is losing people. We must turn that trend around.

In order to restore confidence in our state for both businesses and residents, the legislature must do more to provide real property tax relief, prevent additional tax increases on the middle class, and restore ethics to Illinois government. There is no one piece of legislation that can fix any of these problems. But by working in a collaborative, bipartisan manner, we can start to make progress and reverse this frightening population and business loss.

Who is David Olsen?

His legislative district: 81st House District His political/civic background: State Representative, 2016-Present; College of DuPage Board of Trustees, 2016-2017; Downers Grove Village Council, 2013-2016 His occupation: State Representative His education: B.S. Finance & B.S. Management, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Campaign website: Twitter handle: @dsolsen2

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.


1. High taxes are forcing families and businesses to flee the 81st District and Illinois. To help stop the exodus, I have proposed property tax relief for seniors and all taxpayers. It was recently reported that DuPage residents receive only 31 cents for every tax dollar they send to Springfield. That is simply unacceptable and more reason to oppose any proposal that will further raise taxes on the middle class taxpayers who make up this district.

2. Illinois has the most levels of local government in the nation. I have joined with my local Democratic and Republican legislative colleagues to take the DuPage consolidation model statewide, making it easier to dissolve units of local government with appointed boards. We’ve also had some success with allowing for the consolidation of mosquito abatement districts and the county election commission, but we have a long way to go in streamlining services, improving efficiencies, and saving more taxpayer dollars.

3. Delays and service failures have been particularly bad this summer on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Metra line. Suburban commuters depend on mass transit to get to and from work and our economy needs reliable rails across the entire Chicago region. The next General Assembly should consider a new comprehensive capital plan to address our transportation needs.

What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?

Olsen: As a former member of the Downers Grove Village Council, a past College of DuPage Trustee, and now as State Representative, I have and continue to be completely dedicated to protecting taxpayers and serving the community. I have the public service experience to listen to all sides and then represent to the best of my ability the views and opinions of the 81st House District.

I strongly believe that some of the best legislation comes from working together. Each of the 11 bills I successfully passed through the legislature and saw signed into law this year was a bipartisan effort that recognized input and contributions from all sides. Should I again have the honor to serve in the Illinois General Assembly, I will keep pursuing these kinds of solutions. When we join forces, we can tackle the largest problems that face our state and it is my hope that we see more collaboration and bipartisanship in the future.


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?

Olsen: The outmigration of Illinoisans is one of the most serious issues that we must address. More can and should be done to attract and retain businesses and residents. The Chicago metropolitan area has had almost no population growth since 2010 at a time when the top-20 U.S. metropolitan areas have seen over 8% population growth. Consequently, Illinois is projected to lose another congressional seat, maybe two, during the next reapportionment in 2020.

To reverse this exodus, we need to reduce tax rates, cut wasteful spending, and enact pro-growth policies. 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 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. I also authored and passed bills that promote government efficiency and spending reductions at the local level, such as SB 2543 that simplifies the process for dissolving mosquito abatement districts.

Lawmakers should help create more certainty for businesses so that they can plan for additional hires and increased reinvestment. The business community also needs 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.

In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?

Olsen: Any bill that helps to narrow the pension deficit and move in the right direction is one worth serious consideration. The state must work collaboratively with pensioners and future beneficiaries to address this critical issue. Financial security is critical to both state taxpayers and pensioners. There is room for the interests and parties on all sides to have this vital discussion and seek relief and remedies from the catastrophic financial problems that may be on the horizon.

Specifically, I support efforts to allow retired and current employees to take a voluntary lump sum payment in lieu of ongoing retirement benefits. This is similar to buyout programs offered in the private sector. It would be completely voluntary for employees and retirees, making it a program that could likely withstand constitutional scrutiny.

One of my first official actions as a State Representative was withdrawing from the General Assembly Retirement System (GARS). I rejected the pension on day one to lead by example and show my commitment to solving the pension crisis.

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?

Olsen: Having had a great education through my local Downers Grove public schools and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, I am a strong proponent of public education. I also served as Vice Chairman of the College of DuPage Board of Trustees and know how important our institutions of higher education are for our local communities and our state as a whole.

Unfortunately, many Illinois families viewed the lack of a budget and the uncertainty it provided for our colleges and universities as too great a risk, and as a result, their children are leaving the state to attend other colleges. In addition, scholarships and financial aid offered to students often does not compete with out-of-state schools. Even worse is that out of state graduates often do not return to begin their careers here in Illinois.

I strongly supported the efforts made in this year’s compromise budget to fully fund Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) grants and recent legislation to help secure those grants for a full four year education. I am also excited about the new merit-based scholarship program approved in the budget. These are steps in the right direction.

To help bring students back, I co-sponsored HB 2996, which would control tuition hikes, increase financial aid for lower income students, and increase overall graduation rates by students from Illinois who attend the University of Illinois. Our institutions of higher learning are in crisis, and this initiative would go far in reinstating confidence with our flagship University. The controls placed on tuition increases and the greater access to student financial aid that are provided through this bill will improve affordability and access for Illinois students that we would like to keep in our state.

For our other state universities, I support restructuring efforts that would consolidate overlapping bureaucracies, reduce duplicative administrations, and eliminate unpopular and costly areas of study. Having a more streamlined public university system would help keep Illinois students here and attract those from neighboring states and across the country.

What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?

Olsen: It’s unacceptable and tragic that violence continues to plague neighborhoods and mass shootings are occurring in our schools and other public places. Lawmakers can no longer stand on the sidelines as instances of gun violence continue to occur.

For these reasons, I supported many commonsense reforms that promote public safety while preserving Second Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens. Specifically, I voted in favor of legislation to establish a method by which family members or law enforcement can seek an emergency restraining order to remove firearms from individuals posing an immediate threat to themselves and/or others. Additionally, I voted to expand the wait period for all gun purchases to 72 hours.

Some of these measures were signed into law and some were not. It is a difficult balance to make in a very geographically diverse state. However, I sincerely hope that we can continue to work together on both sides of the aisle to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, while protecting the rights of lawful gun owners.

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?

Olsen: I understand the scheduling concerns of both low-income workers and over-regulated businesses. At this time, I believe it would be better for employers and employees to collaboratively work together toward an equitable solution rather than a one-size-fits-all solution from state government.

Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.

Olsen: I have heard strong arguments both in favor and in opposition to the legalization of recreational marijuana. However, I remain concerned about a lack of data on the long-term impacts of use and the lack of a standardized method to measure intoxication levels of impaired drivers. Due to these public health and safety concerns, I do not support the legalization of recreational marijuana at this time.

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?

Olsen: The opioid epidemic is a grave and serious issue that is affecting every Illinois community. Fatalities due to overdoses have almost doubled over the last decade. It is the most pressing public health and public safety crisis currently facing our state.

To help increase public awareness, I co-sponsored and voted for legislation that would provide easily accessible information about heroin and prescription opioid abuse. The bill, which was signed into law in 2017, requires the Department of Human Services to create and maintain a website to educate the public on the dangers associated with heroin and prescription opioid use.

I also voted to establish the Prescription Monitoring Program. This important program created an opioid registry and record requirements for doctors and other prescribers. In essence, it prevents doctor shopping where drug abusers seek numerous pain medication prescriptions from multiple doctors.

While these are good steps to tackle the epidemic, we can do more. For this reason, I’m pleased that we have a coordinated Illinois Opioid Action Plan that brings together various state agencies, public health experts, and law enforcement to focus on this issue from many different angles. Recently, I was fortunate to participate in a roundtable discussion to gather important input and feedback with House GOP Leader Jim Durkin, State Senator John Curran, and many stakeholders including law enforcement, educators, and public health professionals. We plan to use this input to inform policy in Springfield in the coming legislative session.

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?

Olsen: Our environment is one of our most precious resources. Advancements in renewable energy can help us meet consumer demand without adding more pollutants to the air we breathe, the ground we cultivate, and the water we drink.

However, I have concerns with any policy initiative that actively chooses winners and losers. Rather than creating an uneconomic subsidy for certain power plants, I believe we should let the electricity market work and benefit from lower rates in a truly market-driven system. For these reasons, I voted against the Future Energy Jobs Act, despite my support for the strong environmentally-conscious provisions around solar and other renewable energy.

Despite this one vote, I still am a strong supporter of clean energy solutions. The Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) gave me a 100% ranking this session. Of the nine bills they scored and I voted for, I am particularly happy to back SB 2773, which allows communities to access funds for clean energy projects.

I also regularly meet with environmental groups to seek their input. At a recent forum I hosted with the IEC, the Sierra Club, SCARCE, and the Metropolitan Planning Council, I heard many great initiatives that can protect our green spaces.

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?

Olsen: Our Medicaid system cares for the most vulnerable residents of our state. We have a responsibility to ensure its viability so that the eligible enrollees can continue to access the healthcare coverage they need at a sustainable cost for taxpayers.

Medicaid is also one of our largest expenditures in the state budget. We spend about $21 billion (half of which is a federal match) per year for this program. With more enrollees due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expansion, we especially need more budget predictability and cost saving restructuring.

Rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse will help, but it isn’t enough to maintain the viability of Medicaid. The costly fee-for-service model is outdated and unsustainable. Illinois recently expanded its comprehensive managed care system to include about 80% of Medicaid enrollees. This system focuses on coordinated care and results rather than just service volume. The reduction from 12 to seven insurance providers will further reduce administrative costs. We must continue to monitor this system to ensure people are getting the care they need in a more efficient manner and I hope we are able to realize savings without cutting services.

I am especially optimistic by the recent appointment of my friend, former State Rep. Patti Bellock, as the new Director of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. She is widely known for her expertise in human services and I’m confident that needed reforms for patients will continue under her leadership.

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?

Olsen: One of the best bipartisan successes over the past couple years has been enacting many criminal justice reforms. Since 2014, Illinois has decreased the prison population of non-violent offenders, lowered the rate of recidivism, and refocused on rehabilitation. These accomplishments even occurred during the two-year budget impasse, which makes them even more impressive.

We need to work to ensure that rehabilitated inmates and parolees have opportunities to lead successful, fulfilling careers once they complete their sentence. The legislature should continue to work in a bipartisan manner to ensure we allocate appropriate funding to support proven programs that lead to better outcomes for inmates.

Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?

Olsen: Extensive review and more thorough vetting are required before we can consider reinstituting the practice of early parole, especially for those convicted of violent crimes. Parole boards must more carefully judge a convict’s fitness to rejoin society and where he or she will be released and located. I believe we need to further evaluate the potential impact these early parolees may have on public safety and various communities across the state.


Illinois House 81st District Democratic nominee: Anne Stava-Murray

ENDORSEMENT: David S. Olsen for Illinois House in the 81st District


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.

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