GOP candidate for Illinois House in the 82nd District: Jim Durkin

SHARE GOP candidate for Illinois House in the 82nd District: Jim Durkin

Illinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin discusses school funding during a press conference at the Thompson Center on Monday, July 24, 2017. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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On Feb. 2, Rep. Jim Durkin, the incumbent, appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked him why he’s running for the GOP nomination in the Illinois House of Representatives in the 82nd District:

My name is Jim Durkin I’m the state representative from the 82nd district, that is the west suburbs of Cook County. I live in Western Springs with my wife and daughters. I am one of eight boys that was raised in the Chicago area, I’m also the Republican leader in the House of Representatives. I’m a lawyer by trade and I’ve spent a lot of time in Springfield.

My priorities are fixing the state, getting the fiscal house of the state in order. To me that is that greatest challenge we have and it’s been a challenge we’ve had for many years and I am committed to getting it done. We have so much unfinished business to do in Springfield and our issues of spending and budgeting have not been resolved. And also how we handle our economic and our business community needs to be resolved. We are not a friendly state to businesses, we are not a friendly state to taxpayers.

I’m very fortunate, I’m one of eight boys that was raised in the west suburbs, great sacrifices were made by my parents we all went to the same grammar school the same high school, all went to college, five of us went on to be lawyers, all of us live here in the state of Illinois because of sacrifices made by my parents but also because of opportunities that the state of Illinois provided for us through education and also employment. I’m afraid that the next generation won’t have that availability and to me that’s a crime. I’m committed to making sure that my kids, your kids and everyone’s grandchildren have the same opportunities as I do. I want them to stay here, I don’t want them to leave. So to me it’s about restoring confidence in state government but also restoring confidence in taxpayers, making sure that when they make their investments that they’re going to get a good return off their investment, they’re not seeing that right now, and that’s what I’m committed to.

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. Durkin submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:

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: We need to truly balance the budget for the first time in nearly a decade 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.

James Durkin

Running for: Illinois House of Representative 82nd district

Political/civic background:

Occupation: Attorney

Education: Illinois State University, John Marshall Law School


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: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. I have passed legislation two times in the House to do so only to come to a halt in the Senate. 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. I will continue with that effort this year.

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.

We all know that Illinois has the most layers of government of any state, and Cook County has many unecessary governing bodies. I am working to eliminate the mosquito abatement districts in Cook County and hand control over to Cook County Government.

Pension debt. 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?

A: 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 I look forward to having it called for a vote this upcoming legislative session. We are approaching year three since the state Supreme Court ruled SB1 unconstitutional. The time for waiting should be over.


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: We all want to increase wages for employees throughout the state. Unfortunately, the General Assembly passed a massive tax hike that takes more out of the pockets of hard-working families throughout the state. I’m open to a responsible, gradual increase in the minimum wage so long as it doesn’t impede job creation efforts in Illinois. We need more jobs in the state.

TOPIC: Marijuana

QUESTION: Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.

ANSWER: I do not support the legalization of recreational marijuana.

TOPIC: Casinos

QUESTION: Would you support more casinos in Illinois, including in Chicago? What about racinos? Please explain.

ANSWER: I am open to expansion of casinos and adding gaming to horse racing facilities in Illinois to ensure the future of the industry, as long as the state of Illinois maintains strong oversight of all casinos, particularly one in Chicago.


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.

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 was integral in negotiating and providing votes in the historic school funding reform bill last summer. I do believe that our investment in education is one of our greatest priorities. We have taken a major first step by really addressing the inequities of school funding. We must keep our commitment by ensuring fairness and equity.

TOPIC: Opioids

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: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.


QUESTION: Do you support a state ban on gun silencers? Please explain.

ANSWER:Yes, I voted against the sale of silencers.

QUESTION: Should all gun dealers in Illinois be licensed by the state? Please explain.

ANSWER: As a former narcotics and felony trial prosecutor in Cook County, I do not believe this proposal is workable nor do I believe it will reduce gun violence. A great majority of the guns used illegally by street gangs come from out of state.

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: This is an idea that may be worth exploring provided expedited due process is included.

TOPIC: Medicaid

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?



No – it is a program intended for low income individuals and families.

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 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.

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 Gov. Rauner that we need to fundamentally change the way Springfield operates. That includes rolling back the income tax hike, freezing property taxes, reforming the pension system and enacting term limits. I voted against HB 40 and the TRUST Act, and in favor of the Debt Transparency Act.

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