Running for: Illinois General Assembly, 61st District
Political party affiliation: Republican
Political/civic background: Antioch Village Trustee
Occupation: Self Employed, COO, Employee Benefit Consulting
Education: B.A. Ripon College
Campaign website: yost2020.com
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. Dan Yost submitted the following responses:
The COVID-19 pandemic has hammered the finances of Illinois. The state is staring at a $6.2 billion budget shortfall in this fiscal year. What should be done? Please be specific.
First, let’s be honest, our states finances were in the shambles before COVID-19. If our state had been run properly over the years COVID would not have had the same impact that it did. So what we should be doing is cutting spending and reforming programs. What do families do when they have a loss of income? They reduce their spending and change their spending habits. What do businesses do when their revenue declines? They reduce their spending. Why should our government do differently? After all, the state’s money comes from the same people and businesses that have to adjust their spending. It is wrong for the state to continually go back to families because the politicians refuse to balance the budget.
Unfortunately, this is what happens when you mismanage a $42 billion business, you have to make tough choices. Raising taxes cannot be the answer. People are already leaving Illinois, increasing the tax burden is just going to reduce the number of taxpayers available to foot the bill. That’s a death spiral and it pushes the burden to those who are left.
What grade — “A” to “F” — would you give Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic? Please explain. What, if anything, should he have done differently?
I don’t think anyone could have achieved an A+ on this one, so we should keep that in mind. I would give the Governor a C. This pandemic was not something anyone was prepared for, so I think you have to cut a bit of slack there. That said, I have serious questions and concerns with regard to how he handled the pandemic overall. I really don’t think we should be politicizing issues of life and death so I have tried to be as objective as possible. There are a few things I wish the Governor had done differently:
He should have involved the legislature instead of reasserting his emergency powers over and over again. The first time was reasonable, but after that the legislature should have gotten involved.
He should have left the politics out of it. By introducing politics into a crisis people begin to wonder what the truth really is, what the motivations are and that isn’t conducive to problem solving.
He should have introduced more regions sooner than he did. Mixing areas like Lake and McHenry counties with Chicago just wasn’t appropriate.
Generally, his approach was very heavy handed. I think it ignored the double standard that existed between “essential business” and small business. More should have been done to protect and support our business. I think reasonable people could have come up with reasonable solutions to protect our health and our economy.
Financially, this has been devastating for our state and there needs to be accountability. From a public health perspective, I think we have fared better than other states and I think he deserves credit for that.
In Springfield, we need leaders who will acknowledge the good as much as the bad and give credit when credit is due. We don’t need more partisan operators who quietly or loudly fall in line with their party’s positions. We need independent and thoughtful leaders. We also need leaders who listen and remember that as representatives we represent a diverse population and their voices should be heard and at least considered. I really didn’t feel like that happened here.
In the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, legislatures in some states have taken up the issue of police reform. Should Illinois do the same? If so, what would that look like?
I think we should always be looking at ways to reform all of our public institutions to better serve our citizens. I believe that from the bottom of my heart. That is why I am involved in my local government. To make a difference and ensure our village continues to serve our neighbors.
I understand that the vast majority of police are good people who entered the profession to give service and help to their fellow man. We should not judge all police by the actions of the few. We should step back and look for opportunities to improve our processes.
Just like anything else there are bad actors. We need to stop them from moving between jurisdictions. We need to train officers to handle different situations in different ways. I support our men and women in uniform, and we shouldn’t lose site of the sacrifices they all make on our behalf each and every day.
Should the Legislature pass a law requiring all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras? Why or why not?
I’m not opposed to body cameras, but it shouldn’t be an unfunded mandate. Body cameras seem like a simple solution, but unfunded mandates are crippling our municipalities. The cameras are the easy part. There’s a whole lot more that goes into body cameras than a piece of technology on a vest. If the state wants to make mandates, they need to take into account the entire cost and find ways to fund that mandate. Our local governments are struggling, particularly now, just adding an additional expense at this time is not the right answer.
Federal prosecutors have revealed a comprehensive scheme of bribery, ghost jobs and favoritism in subcontracting by ComEd to influence the actions of House Speaker Michael Madigan. Who’s to blame? What ethics reforms should follow? Should Madigan resign?
Speaker Madigan has been in office since before I was born and all my life I’ve listened to the speculation about the corruption in Springfield. Here in Illinois it’s practically part of civics class.
We need term limits. I’d like to think that we could send legislators to Springfield, or Washington for that matter, that could just do the right thing and leave of their own accord at the appropriate time, Citizen Legislators they used to be called. Those don’t exist anymore, we have professional politicians now, so I think we need to force the issue.
With regard to Madigan himself, there is no question he should resign. Illinois is a laughingstock and it doesn’t matter what we accomplish as a state, as long as he remains in power there will always be a shadow over any legislation, solution or reform that he presides over. It’s just time.
Please tell us about your civic work in the last two years, whether it’s legislation you have sponsored or work you have done in other ways to improve your community.
I was elected as a Trustee in Antioch in 2019 because I realized that the issues that impact my family most happen at the state and local level, so I decided that rather than just complain about what’s happening around me I’d get involved, start looking for solutions and work to bring people together for the common good.
But, the work I’m most proud of is the work my family does quietly in the background. Teaching our kids the importance of giving back and helping others is very important to my wife and me. We don’t support causes for the accolades we support causes because they are the right thing to do and there are few things in life that feel better than helping your fellow neighbor and watching our kids get excited and participating is such a rewarding experience as a parent. Over the years we’ve supported many organizations, typically they are organizations that support children in need, it’s just something my wife and I feel strongly about.
That said, there is a specific organization that I would like to call out that we’ve been working with as a family. Antioch traveling closet is a wonderful organization run by a very dedicated group of volunteers that traditionally provided clothes and toiletries to families across northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. During the COVID-19 shut down they adapted a bit and worked to provide food to kids and families who were hurt by the closing of schools or the loss of jobs. They reach out to the community in so many ways, it’s really wonderful to see how people can come together and help out their communities when they need it most. We do our little bit to help make our community a better place but people like Lisa Fisher at Antioch Traveling Closet, is one of the heroes that make it happen.
Please list three concerns that are specific to your district, such as a project that should be undertaken or a state policy related to an important local issue that should be revised.
Property taxes MUST be addressed
We need to continue to monitor and solve for ETO emissions.
We need to focus on jobs and fostering small business, now more than ever.
What are your other top legislative priorities?
Property tax reform
What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.
I think this is the wrong answer to the wrong problem. I used to have a client that always talked about “unintended consequences”. Well, I think the unintended consequences of this proposal are devastating to the people of Illinois, particularly given the devastating impact of the covid shut down. I think it will mean more decline in population, more decline in business investment and ultimately higher taxes on everyone, including our retirees.
We need to address the real financial problems here in Illinois first before we consider looking at taxes. We need to have reasonable conversations and we have to be willing to address the root cause of the problems we face. The problem isn’t that Springfield doesn’t collect enough revenue from its citizens. We have corruption that needs to be sorted out. We need to take a serious look at spending. And we need to address the elephant in the room, specifically pensions. We need to look at pensions just like businesses do. We need to preserve the promises that have been made because that’s the right thing to do, but we need to stop making the problem worse. There is a balance that can be struck if we can get past all of the division.
Illinois continues to struggle financially, with a backlog of unpaid bills. In addition to a progressive state income tax — or in lieu of such a tax — what should the state do to pay its bills, meet its pension obligations and fund core services such as higher education?
First, we need a realistic view of what the problem is. We should approach this like a business. If Illinois is the product we are selling and we see more people getting rid of their “Illinois” and buying another product like “Wisconsin”, “Indiana”, “Tennessee”, “Texas” or “Florida”, do you raise the price of “Illinois”? A simple application of economic principles tells me the demand for “Illinois” will go down as the price of “Illinois” goes up.
We need to focus on lowering the cost of Illinois if we want to turn this ship around. The only way to reduce the cost is to look for ways to reduce spending and reform programs. We have to address the following things:
Spending in general. We have to reduce spending and waste. You mention core services. How do we define core services in Illinois and how do we prioritize those things? Right now, core services don’t get funded because the politicians and politically powerful are spending on the programs that help them politically, not those that most help families.
We simply have to address the government pension crisis. We can’t lower the price of Illinois unless we are willing to tackle pensions. Politicians have lied to pensioners, taxpayers, and government employees for far too long. I think we can do that in a way that is fair to current workers and also provide a retirement solution for younger workers that’s equitable to them and the taxpayers who foot the bill.
We have to clean up the corruption. Corruption is a tax. We just learned recently that the citizens of Illinois have paid an extra $150 million on their electric bills because of corruption. There is a cost to corruption, and we should take steps to eliminate it.
If we can take the first steps and begin to demonstrate that we are serious about fiscal and ethics reform in this state I believe that, with the resources we have here, we will see a resurgence in population, in business and ultimately the revenue we need to fix the problems.
Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?
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.
What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?
We have great teachers here in Illinois. I went to public school and I still stay in touch with my teachers from grade school. They had a real impact on my educational career and my life generally. I don’t think that’s changed since I was in school, my kids have wonderful teachers. Just like everything else, I think we must begin by getting to the root cause of our problems. What are the things that have changed in our education system to cause them to decline or not meet our expectations? I don’t think we should take any ideas off the table. We should look at everything and give an honest evaluation of the merits and make a determination of how we think it will improve our outcomes. Our solutions nowadays are always focused on what’s best for a particular political interest. I want to focus on what solves the problem. Some things I think we need to think about:
Choice, I think competition is an incredible driver of innovation and improvement. We shouldn’t be afraid of competition. Parents should be able to have more choice in what is best for their children.
Stop unfunded mandates on our schools to free local districts to do what is best for the families in their community.
School funding has to be part of the solution.
I really think most of our problems here in Illinois could be solved with common sense. We have a lot of problems and they can’t be fixed over night, but if people were willing to roll up their sleeves, reach across the aisle, acknowledge that nobody has a monopoly on being right, set the campaign money aside and just do what is right, we really could turn it around.
Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?
My heart goes out to the families across the nation and those in our communities who have lost loved ones to senseless violence. This is a complicated issue; I will admit I don’t have all of the answers. What I do know is that doing nothing is not the answer and doing something simply for the sake of saying you did something is not the answer. We need to start getting to the root cause of our problems here in Illinois and nationally. We shouldn’t accept a situation where our legislators simply manage the symptoms. We need to look at what causes gun violence. We should certainly be focused on crime and we should be focused on mental health.
Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.
In my heart, I would like to say that term limits are unnecessary, that elected officials will do the right thing and move on. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in, so absent some sudden shift in virtue by our elected officials, the only solution I see is term limits.
Everybody says gerrymandering is bad, but the party in power in every state — Democrats in Illinois — resist doing anything about it. Or do we have that wrong? What should be done?
Gerrymandering is bad, regardless of party. Think about it, the ultimate goal of gerrymandering is to deprive a particular group of people of their representation and maintain power for one particular party. The absence of diversity of thought is not a healthy thing for a government, and I think one party rule here in Illinois is pretty good evidence of that fact. We should introduce a constitutional amendment to address this issue and ensure that people receive the representation they deserve through an independent third-party re-districting board.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago is investigating possible official corruption by state and local officials. This prompted the Legislature to pass an ethics reform measure to amend the Lobbyist Registration Act (SB 1639). It was signed into law in December. What’s your take on this and what more should be done?
Does it strike anyone else as odd, that when the legislature addresses an issue as important as ethics in Illinois it can be done in 10 pages, but any other regulation seems to take hundreds, even thousands? I don’t read anything in those 10 pages, even when considered in the context of 25 ILCS 170/1, that would have prevented the violations of public trust we have seen in Illinois.
We need tougher penalties for elected officials who use their office to profit at the expense of the citizens. We need term limits and we need tighter restrictions on public officials, particularly legislators, who become lobbyists after their term is ended. We need better elected officials who are willing to challenge and change the culture of corruption. Ultimately, on this issue, individual legislators are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Either they are vocally taking on the culture of corruption and holding their colleagues and leaders accountable, or they are quietly allowing this to occur.
When people use the internet and wireless devices, companies collect data about us. Oftentimes, the information is sold to other companies, which can use it to track our movements or invade our privacy in other ways. When companies share this data, we also face a greater risk of identity theft. What should the Legislature do, if anything?
Ultimately, the best answer to this issue is for consumers to become educated about the risks and make choices to use a product/service or not. Each of us has the ability to avoid any given product or service that we believe fails to meet our standards with regard to our privacy and safety. I think the role of the legislature should be to make sure that those costs and risks are communicated to consumers fairly, not in legalese.
The reality is these products and services are not free, there is a price attached to our privacy and there are those businesses that are anxious to pay it. I think the other area where the legislature has a role is when it comes to protecting children. The ability for anyone to track our children through the use of mobile devices and applications poses a real risk to the safety of our children and I do believe our government has a role in protecting our children from predators who use technology to lure or victimize our kids.
The number of Illinois public high school graduates who enroll in out-of-state universities continues to climb. What can Illinois do to make its state universities more attractive to Illinois high school students?
A lot of politicians want to throw money at the problem and “drive down” the cost, citing tuition as the reason for our challenges. I think you have to start by making Illinois a place where young people want to live after they graduate. Next, lets look at the real cost of a college education, because the numbers we see “advertised” aren’t real numbers. When 60-72% of students receive an average aid package that equates to 62-87% of tuition, that tells me the sticker price is misleading. They raise the price to show a bigger “discount”.
I think you also have to at least consider that the issue isn’t the cost, but the value of the education being offered. For many state schools, prospective students are making a calculation that they can receive a better-quality education, with better job opportunities post-graduation by leaving Illinois. Schools like Northwestern and University of Chicago seem to flourish despite a huge price tag, why?
This isn’t a problem unique to Illinois, many schools located outside of major metropolitan areas are experiencing a decline in enrollment. I’m not sure more money from the state is going to solve that problem. We should have some very honest discussions about our public university system before we determine more money is the answer.
What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?
I am very concerned about ETO. I have a lot of questions that I think need to be answered. As a dad and a husband, I know I would want answers if I lived near one of these facilities. I would want to know that my family is safe in our home, in our yard, in our parks. Our families that live in impacted areas deserve the same answers I would want. I think this needs to be a priority for the people in my district as well as other districts impacted by this.
What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain.
Honestly, my family. They came to Illinois in the 1830’s and settled a little town called Cortland, near Burlington and Sycamore. They came here to make a better life for themselves and future generations of their family. They came as veterans of the War of 1812 and as children of Revolutionary War veterans. They fought in the civil war and survived through good times and bad. Up until just last year, they still lived on the same farm they built back in 1835. I think that’s pretty inspiring.
What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
When I was a kid I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and there were two shows they never missed, Golden Girls and Scarecrow and Mrs. King. They were both great shows, funny and entertaining. My grandparents where a very special part of my life and I miss them dearly. My grandma would make us popcorn in a kettle, she’d measure the popcorn out in this aluminum measuring cup and we’d wait for the first kernels to pop which meant the oil was ready. We’d sit and eat popcorn and watch the shows and laugh together or talk. I think the memories of watching those shows with my Grandma and Grandpa is what make them so special to me now, nothing else could compare. It may sound a little corny, but I still have my grandma’s kettle and measuring cup and I only use them to make popcorn when my family is sitting watching TV together.