On Feb. 14, Daniel Didech appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked him why he’s running for the Democratic nomination to the Illinois House of Representatives in the 59th District:
My name is Daniel Didech. I’m a Democrat running for state representative in the 59th District. I live in Buffalo Grove with my wife Jen and my dog Captain Hook and I’m an attorney. I’m a local government attorney. So I represent villages, school districts, community colleges, park districts and any kind of local government you can think of.
I also serve as Vernon Township supervisor. I was elected Vernon Township supervisor last year. Over the past year, we’ve accomplished a lot in Vernon Township. We cut our property tax by over 5 percent. We modernized our food pantries. So we’re now serving more families with less waste with a higher level of dignity and we’ve expanded the services we offer to our community. More senior services. We’ve expanded our summer camp program. We have an after-school STEM program, for an educational fun alternative to traditional after-school programs, and we’re now expanding into a summer camp program as well. I’m very excited to run and represent the community that I’ve lived in for most of my life and I’m looking forward to getting some good work done in Springfield.
My number one priority is property tax relief for my district. My community, we have great schools, it’s a very safe place to live, but families are getting in a lot of instances feeling like they need to leave the community because it is so unaffordable. So increasing the property tax exemptions for homeowners and extra relief for seniors and veterans as well is one of my top priorities.
We also need to look into a property tax freeze. The rates go up and up and up every year and it’s really unsustainable so we have to stop those rates from going up. As Vernon Township supervisor we were one of the only local governments in the community that actually cut property taxes. Most local governments they raise taxes. If you’re lucky they hold it steady. We’ve actually lowered it. So we need more of that sort of leadership in Springfield and bringing property tax relief to my community is going to be one of my top priorities.
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. Daniel Didech submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
TOPIC: Top priorities
QUESTION: Please explain what your specific cause or causes will be. Please avoid a generic topic or issue in your answer.
ANSWER: My top priorities are reflective of the concerns I hear most from residents when I walk door-to-door: middle-class tax relief, healthcare, and jobs.
Skyrocketing property tax bills and an increase to the state’s income tax have hurt middle-class families, while misguided efforts, like the Cook County Beverage Tax, hurt small business owners. Excessive taxes are driving residents out of their homes and out of our community, which is why we need immediate relief. Property tax relief will be my first priority in Springfield, just like it was when I was elected Vernon Township Supervisor and I cut the township’s property tax levy by over 5% during my first year in office. Not only should we freeze rates, we should look to actually lower them by expanding exemptions for all homeowners. Additionally, I believe we can find cost-savings by consolidating some redundant and unnecessary local government units.
In the wake of continued efforts by Donald Trump to reshape healthcare and dismantle the Affordable Care Act, it is important that Illinois takes active steps to ensure that all of our residents have access to affordable healthcare. I applaud the implementation of House Bill 2959, which will prohibit health insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions. I also support a public health insurance option that would allow every Illinois resident the opportunity to buy low-cost health insurance. This type of proactive thinking will continue to be necessary as long as President Donald Trump and his allies refuse to prioritize the health and well-being of all Americans.
Finally, Illinois needs to do more to attract and retain jobs. I support encouraging economic growth by extending investment grants and increasing tax credits for small businesses. We should invest in companies that choose to invest in our communities, which is why I also support requiring corporations to return taxpayer-funded incentives if they choose to shift jobs overseas or out of state.
Legislative District: State Representative – 59th District
Political/civic background: Vernon Township Supervisor, 2017-Present
Occupation: Municipal Attorney
Education: Roosevelt University – Bachelor of Arts, History; Valparaiso University – Law Degree
Campaign website: www.danieldidech.com
TOPIC: Top district needs
QUESTION: Please list three district-specific needs that will be your priorities. This could be a project that is needed in your district, or a rule that needs to be changed, or some federal matter that has been ignored.
ANSWER: Reducing the tax burden on middle-class residents is a major concern for my community. We can help address this problem by freezing property tax rates, expanding exemptions for property tax homeowners and consolidating local governments. I am also open to supporting a fair, progressive tax system that will require millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share, while reducing income tax rates for middle-class families.
We have to do more to support small business formation and growth. As someone from a family of small business owners, it is disheartening that there are so many empty storefronts in my district that could serve as attractive locations for entrepreneurs looking to start a business. The passage of Rep. Carol Sente’s bill to reduce LLC fees was a great step forward on this issue, and I look forward to continuing her legacy of promoting small businesses in my district.
Additionally, my district has transportation needs that I will be fighting for as a state representative. The state should do more to support para-transit services so our residents with disabilities and seniors have the resources necessary to work, run errands, and attend doctor appointments.
TOPIC: Pension debt
QUESTION: In 2017, Illinois’ unfunded pension liability ballooned to at least $130 billion. Do you support re-amortizing this debt? Please explain your answer. And what is your position on a constitutional amendment that would reduce the liability of the pension debt?
ANSWER: Any changes to our pension systems can only take place with every stakeholder at the table, particularly organized labor and organizations that protect middle-class families. I am strongly supportive of ensuring that individuals continue to receive the benefits they earned, and would make sure their representative organizations have a voice throughout the process.
I would need to see a final plan and ensure it makes sound fiscal sense, including the impact of interest rates and its effect on the state’s fiscal outlook. No refinancing plan should be done on the backs of middle-class families.
TOPIC: Minimum wage
QUESTION: Cook County and Chicago are on their way to paying a $13 hourly minimum wage. Many suburbs in the county, however, have opted out of the wage increase. Should Illinois raise its minimum wage from $8.25 an hour? Please explain. And if you favor an increase in the state minimum wage, what should it be?
ANSWER: I believe in making the minimum wage a living wage, which is why I support efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour statewide. I also believe we should include tax credits that assist small and medium-sized businesses in paying a fair wage.
QUESTION: Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
ANSWER: I would only consider supporting legislation that incorporates the expert advice of law enforcement, educators, and medical personnel. Recreational marijuana should be taxed, regulated and legalized, but I would not support any measures that would potentially put children and families at risk by causing an increase in impaired driving or making it easier for teenagers to acquire mind-altering drugs.
QUESTION: Would you support more casinos in Illinois, including in Chicago. What about racinos? Please explain.
ANSWER: I would only support more casinos or racinos in Illinois if adequate protections are in place to prevent underage gambling and if additional state revenue is directed toward schools and programs that serve our most vulnerable neighbors. There also must be local control; a casino should not be forced upon a community that does not want one.
TOPIC: Property tax freeze
QUESTION: A property tax freeze in Illinois has been proposed frequently since Gov. Bruce Rauner took office. What’s your position? If you favor a freeze, how many years should it last? Should the freeze exclude property tax increases to service the debt, make pension payments or cover the cost of public safety? Again, please explain.
ANSWER: Middle-class families in my community need property tax relief now, which is why I will be taking a leadership role in Springfield to ease the burden of property taxes. Enacting a property tax freeze must be a high priority. Additionally, we should reduce the property tax burden for the middle-class by increasing the exemptions for homeowners, seniors, and veterans. As Vernon Township Supervisor, I cut the township’s property tax levy by over 5% without sacrificing the services we provide to the community by diversifying the township’s sources of revenue and eliminating unnecessary expenses. One of my top priorities in Springfield will be to enact legislation that will reduce the property tax burden and make it easier for middle-class families to save money, pay down debt, and stay in their homes.
TOPIC: School funding
QUESTION: A revised school funding formula was approved this year by the Legislature and the governor, but a bipartisan commission has concluded that billions more dollars are needed to achieve sufficient and equitable funding. Should Illinois spend more on schools, and where would the money come from?
ANSWER: I believe that every child in Illinois should have access to the same world-class public education that I received at Stevenson High School and District 96 schools. A child’s opportunity to achieve their dreams should not be hindered by the zip code they live in. Illinois should implement a fair, progressive income tax that would provide tax relief for middle-class families while increasing education funding by requiring millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.
TOPIC: Opioid abuse
QUESTION: How can the Legislature best address the problem of opioid abuse and addiction? Please cite specific laws you have supported or would support.
ANSWER: The opioid epidemic has had a devastating impact on too many families and communities. I am supportive of proposals that will address this crisis by fighting overprescription, increasing reporting standards by hospitals, and giving law enforcement the training and tools needed to handle overdose emergencies.
In order to approach this issue comprehensively, we have to look at the underlying causes of this crisis. We have to invest in communities that face job and educational shortages, and we simply cannot allow addiction treatment programs to be held hostage by manufactured political crises such as the governor’s budget impasse.
QUESTION: Do you support a state ban on gun silencers? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes. It is disappointing that extreme, NRA-backed politicians continue to prioritize an agenda that will make our neighborhoods less safe by allowing criminals to possess dangerous weapons.
QUESTION: Should all gun dealers in Illinois be licensed by the state? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes. Requiring gun dealers to be held to responsible standards, such as ensuring they are conducting all necessary background checks, keeping their stores secure and stopping straw purchasers, is critical in keeping our schools and neighborhoods safe. Common-sense standards are required for other businesses that require a license, such as liquor stores and tobacco shops. It makes sense to enact an appropriately rigorous process for gun dealers.
QUESTION: Should family members be empowered to petition courts for the temporary removal of guns from emotionally or mentally disturbed people who may be a danger to themselves or others? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes. Family members understand their loved ones, and are often the first to realize that something is wrong. They should have the ability to take action and protect their family and community when they see warning signs that an individual is about to commit a crime or harm themselves with a firearm.
QUESTION: What would you do to ensure the long-term viability of the state’s Medicaid program? Do you support continued Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act? Should the state continue on a path toward managed care for Medicaid beneficiaries? Should everyone be permitted to buy into Medicaid?
ANSWER: Every resident in this state deserves access to high-quality, affordable healthcare for themselves and their families. I am disappointed that the governor has refused to stand up to Donald Trump, who is committed to taking us back to a world where we can be dropped by insurers when we get sick, or we can be discriminated against because of pre-existing conditions. While I appreciate the work currently done in Springfield to ensure residents with pre-existing conditions remain protected in Illinois, we have to do more to protect our families and neighbors from Donald Trump’s dangerous healthcare ideas.
We need to have a strong Medicaid system, and I oppose the governor’s Medicaid privatization plan that could mean less access to care and higher premiums. It is unacceptable that his own administration cannot accurately estimate the cost to taxpayers of this handout to insurance companies. I support legislative efforts that would require the governor’s administration to be more transparent with their procurement process, rather than continue to push through no-bid contracts that beg for more oversight.
Illinois should also be a leader on healthcare by instituting a state-level public option. This must be a priority, as it would ensure all Illinois residents have access to affordable, quality care while providing competition to for-profit insurance companies that continuously raise rates on those who can least afford it. Implementing an Illinois public option that allows our residents to buy low-cost insurance will expand access to healthcare, drive down the prices that the state pays for its Medicaid enrollees, and provide a crucial backstop against Donald Trump’s commitment to making the healthcare system worse for the middle-class.
TOPIC: College student exodus
QUESTION: Illinois is one of the largest exporters of college students in the country. What would you do to encourage the best and brightest young people in Illinois to attend college here at home? Does Illinois have too many state universities, as some have argued?
ANSWER: We have to take steps now to address the damage done to the state’s university system by the budget crisis and appropriately fund the system so that we can attract and retain talented students here in Illinois. In addition to funding our schools, we also need to look at ways to address the student debt crisis that has hurt too many families. I am supportive of House Bill 1316, which would make college in Illinois debt-free for students who excel and earn a B-average or better grade during their studies.
TOPIC: Gov. Rauner
QUESTION: Please list three of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s principles, or decisions he has made, with which you agree. Also please list three of the governor’s principles, or decisions he has made, with which you disagree.
ANSWER: I agree with the governor that families in our state need immediate property tax relief. Additionally, I believe there are ways that Illinois can improve its business climate and attract investment. One such way would be to review our workers’ compensation system, and look at ways to require insurance companies to pass on savings that were created through previous reform. I am also supportive of responsible, cost-saving proposals that would allow for local government consolidation. As Vernon Township Supervisor, I have championed the consolidation of the Vernon Township Road District, which will save taxpayers millions of dollars in unnecessary administrative costs without sacrificing the road maintenance services that are provided to residents of the township.
Unfortunately, the governor’s unwillingness to work in good faith and compromise with others on these issues is a major concern for me. Our state went through a destructive budget crisis that the governor used as a way to create leverage for his extreme agenda. It is not acceptable to use seniors on Meals on Wheels, children with developmental disabilities, and domestic violence survivors in need of support as negotiating chips in an attempt to pass an extreme agenda that would hurt middle-class families.
Additionally, I am disappointed that the governor has refused to stand up to President Donald Trump and his extreme policies. By applauding Trump’s dangerous healthcare proposals, the governor is failing to look out for residents across our state who live with pre-existing conditions or cannot afford the escalating price of health insurance premiums. More, it is unacceptable that the governor failed to speak out against Trump’s tax bill that minimized the state and local tax deductions and will further increase the burden of out-of-control property taxes on middle-class homeowners.
Finally, I strongly oppose the governor’s focus on dismantling labor rights here in Illinois. Labor organizations help ensure that middle-class families can earn a livable wage at a workplace that is a safe environment. The governor’s insistence on promoting anti-labor policies would only pad the profits of big corporations, while making it more difficult for Illinois families to earn middle-class wages.