The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates running for the Illinois Senate a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois.
Barrett Davie submitted the following answers to our questionnaire, and watch the video above to find out why he’s running to represent the 29th district in the Illinois Senate.
Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.
Davie: My number one priority will be to address Illinois’ public pension system in a way that is fair to public workers and taxpayers. Right now, our broken pension system is consuming greater portions of our state and local resources and crowding out spending on core government responsibilities like schools, infrastructure, public safety, and the social safety net. Moral responsibility and the Constitution do not allow us to change benefits for people already in the system. However, we must reform our system for new employees moving forward to begin providing future market certainty. Moreover, our credit ranking and future negotiations with current bondholders will only improve after this vital step. We must be serious about fixing the structural fiscal challenges facing our state. Solving this problem will not be easy, but our state will continue down the path of gradual decline until we do.
I am also primarily focused on addressing the opioid epidemic . I am also committed to changing the hyper-partisan and corrupt culture in Springfield. I will not support any party leader who does not pledge to call for an end to political gerrymandering and term limits. I am going to refuse the legislator pension and will limit my service in the Illinois Senate to two-terms.
Who is Barrett Davie?
His legislative District: Senate #29 His political/civic background: I am a political outsider and have never held political office before. I am very active in my community having served as Chairman of the Board for the Gorton Community Center and Bernie’s Book Bank during critical times for both of those organizations. His occupation: Co-Founder, Board Member: InStadium http://www.instadium.com; Co-Founder & Partner: InFlow Partners http://www.inflowpartners.com His education: Fenwick High School, Class of 1992; Tulane University, Class of 1997, B.A. History; IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, Class of 2001, J.D. Campaign website: http://www.barrettdavie.com
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.
- School Safety: While gun control legislation can reduce gun violence, we must work in the meantime to protect children in our schools. Northbrook School District 27 has been a leader in infrastructure upgrades and active shooter preparedness. Their initiative, EPP 27, is an incredible program that includes training and preparedness for the entire community. District 27 schools are more prepared to limit the ability of an active shooter to cause harm than anywhere in the country. I have visited District 27 on multiple occasions and am working with them to develop legislation that would open funds for other school districts in Illinois to achieve similar levels of preparedness. If elected, I will introduce this legislation within the first 100 days of taking office.
- NoThirdRail: I stand with people in my district opposing the proposed 3rd rail holding track for idling freight trains in Lake Forest, Bannockburn, Deerfield, Northbrook, and Glenview. I was glad to have brokered a meeting between municipal leaders and the Illinois Department of Transportation earlier this year, which led recently to the recent announcement that IDOT will no long support the project as currently constituted. I will work hard to listen to and advocate for the people and communities of my district.
- Route 53 Extension:Every day around 4:30 pm, hundreds of cars pile into city streets in Buffalo Grove, Palatine and Arlington Heights at the terminus of Route 53. Failure to extend Route 53 causes a drag on our local economy and harms local communities in my district. A lot of work has been done to develop a plan that is environmentally friendly, and it is high time this project moves forward.
What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?
Davie: First off, we are both strong supporters of a woman’s access to health care and support a woman’s right to choose. Furthermore, we both support common-sense gun control legislation.
However, our divergence is dramatic based on the differences in our background, philosophy, temperament, capability, effort, effectiveness, and support. It is because of these differences that I will be more successful than my opponent at addressing our state’s most significant challenge, its failing financial health.
Background: I have spent 20 years leading and advising startup companies across America and leading or turning around non-profits right here in our community. When people don’t believe, or say things cannot be done, that’s when I’ve gotten involved. I build coalitions of people with diverging viewpoints to solve for a shared vision. My opponent has spent six years in the legislature administrating a state in decline, 21 years in elected office, and 30 years working in government. She is part of this failed system. The state of Illinois has incredible resources with which to claim a position as the best state in America. Yet, my opponent fails to take a leadership role in guiding our legislature and representing the 29th district, arguably the most educated district in our state. As a result, we continue to decline. We can’t afford another four years.
Philosophy: I work hard to avoid confusing activity with achievement; and I focus my attention on what is right, not who is right. One need only look at my opponent’s mail pieces to see that after six years in office, she trumpets success as measured on “votes taken” or “bills sponsored,” but not achieving results to solve our most significant financial challenges. Moreover, she claims to be a champion for those with special needs and others in need of a critical social safety net. Real leadership on behalf of these people would drive a focus on solving our most significant financial challenges, not distributing what’s left of a state in decline.
Temperament: Anything is possible, and one person can change the world, or in our case, Illinois. My opponent is oft heard expressing that she is only one of 59 or dismissing concepts as impractical when they are in fact part of a solution set this state so desperately requires. I’m a startup entrepreneur driven by energy, and a “can do it” spirit. However, I equally possess the measured temperament needed to build an industry advisory group filled with leaders with strong personalities and diverging viewpoints, which I did with the leadership of professional sports teams across America. Respect, thoughtfulness, bipartisanship, and high emotional intelligence will be incredibly valuable to bring our state together to bring real reform to our financial system. An ability to imagine, communicate, and lead our state toward goals that otherwise seem impossible, is critical. I can do this, and my opponent has not done this over the past six years.
Effort: We’ve knocked on over 13,000 doors and continue to meet as many individuals in this district as we can each day. We’ve spent our time speaking to Democrats and Independents to break down the divide that exists in our country and in our state. We filed more signatures to get on the ballot than anyone running for the Senate this cycle. We’ve built a more robust team. We’ve raised more money on our own, without the help of PACs or Special interests, than anyone ever running for the state senate. After six years in office, my opponent raises only 4% of her political contributions from people living in her district and has people living within one block of her house who have never met her.
Capability: I’m a leader. Whether it’s building a business from scratch, shepherding other business owners into new market opportunities, raising money to change the trajectory of children through the support of early childhood education, or working in my town as part of an incredible team to turn around a community center, I bring people together, seek out new approaches, build credibility and trust to achieve success. I strive each day to work hard, work smart, be kind, be respectful and take responsibility. I work to apply this approach to everything I do. I don’t know my opponent personally. However, I have her six-year record in the Senate, and the continued decline of our state, as my basis for why I believe that I deserve a chance and will bring better outcomes to our state.
Effectiveness: To me, effectiveness is measured not by activity, but by one’s achievements. While there is much which I would like to accomplish in the coming years, I believe my existing record of achievement is objective and sound. Illinois requires real bipartisan leadership to work through our most significant financial challenges, and the citizens of the 29th district deserve this in their leadership. My opponent continues to trumpet a lot of activity with limited achievement. Moreover, her record shows her lack of leadership while accepting significant support from those administering a failed approach. The people of the 29th deserve so much more.
Support: I am supported by the people of our district with over 425 individual donors and no PAC money. My opponent has received almost $1 MM dollars over the last couple of years, and 96% of her money comes from Union PACs, trial attorneys, and other obscure Springfield special interests.
In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?
Davie: The status quo politicians have run up more than $128 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. That liability may be double when considering local fire and police pensions. The IL Supreme Court’s decision to prohibit changes to existing pension promises does not foreclose all opportunity for fair reform.
This is not a partisan issue. We are all in this together. Dedicated teachers, law enforcement, first responders and other public employees are critical to our state’s prosperity. A compensation framework and retirement system that is competitive, dependable, and sustainable is in all of our best interests. It’s the failure of status quo politicians like Senator Julie Morrison and Mike Madigan to focus on this situation that puts Illinois at an existential crossroads.
I will consider and advocate any good faith pension reform proposal. However, I support the following steps to begin making measurable progress toward a sustainable system:
- All newly hired employees must be moved to a 401(k) style defined contribution plan and should participate in and benefit from Social Security. We have to stop increasing the population of employees within an unsustainable system while also ensuring critical professions (teachers, police, and fire) are attractive to future employees.
- Moral responsibility and the Supreme Court decision both support our keeping our promises to public workers and retirees depending on pension for their retirement. Funding these very generous promises recklessly made by status quo politicians will require renegotiation of existing debt and new borrowing.
- The ability to develop and pass a new structure for future employees allowing us to define and cap our existing long-term obligations freeing rating agencies to improve Illinois’ worst in the nation credit rating. This move is desperately needed to lower borrowing costs and renegotiate current debt at better rates saving us billions.
- The state will then also be in a better position to think about alternative approaches for retiring current obligations. For example, the term of the bonds could be stretched to match the long-term nature of the obligations, reducing the annual interest payment amount.
- A central body must manage the 653 local fire and police pensions. This will allow them to protect their respective shares while obtaining the benefits of economies of scale. My opponent identified this as something she supports but doesn’t dare to advance it because of union opposition* (we need leaders who are truly independent of special interests and willing to push back on them on behalf of the people and small businesses of our state). This proposal has been politicized and fear mongered. We can drive better returns for a combined effort. We can still provide the local control desired on issues of disability and workers compensation. Building trust here is critical. Solutions are required by both, those who serve in uniform, and our municipalities which are saddled with funding the currently ineffective system. My father was a Chicago policeman for 35 years, and my mother has lived on a CPD widow’s pension for 14 years. I understand the importance of these benefits and believe we have a responsibility to be good stewards of a dependable system for current and future generations.
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?
Davie: The 29th Senate District has some of the best high schools in the country, and more and more of our top-tier graduates are opting to go out of state for college, which only makes it more likely that they will look to start their careers elsewhere as well. The future vibrancy of our communities is being uprooted because our kids are not returning to build their lives and careers here in Illinois.
High school graduates are looking out of state because Illinois has among the highest in-state tuition and uncertainty when it comes to financial aid. These, in turn, are the result of decades of fiscal mismanagement by our state legislators because debt and pension liabilities are crowding out other spending priorities like higher education.
Tax increases might generate short-term revenues for higher education but not a sustainable solution as debt and pension obligations will quickly consume these proceeds as well. Efforts like the new AIM High grant program, a merit-based scholarship for Illinois students who attend college in-state, and strengthening of the MAP grant programs are also helpful, but I fear these efforts just nibble around the edges. Debt and pension will continue to crowd out our public universities if we do not make necessary reforms to our state’s pension crisis. The best thing we can do to keep students in Illinois is to elect legislators who will lead in solving our pension crisis.
What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?
Davie: My father was a Chicago policeman for 35 years and a senior forensic investigator. I grew up understanding the destructive (and protective) capabilities of guns. My wife and I were incredibly disturbed by the Parkland school and other tragic recent mass shootings around our country and believe that state legislatures have an essential role and responsibility to curb this violence. To be absolutely clear, I think that it is important to pass sensible gun laws that (1) keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of people who would use them for illegal purposes, and (2) reduce the magnitude of mass violence events (think bump stock bans). I support legislation such as SB337 – Gun Dealer Licensing Act; HB 1468 – 72-Hour Waiting Period; and a prohibition on bump stocks (I do not support the NRA drafted language my opponent introduced into the Illinois Senate, but rather the language that would actually ban bump stocks).
I also believe that legislators and society can do more to accomplish these goals. For example, I support additional funds that would enable schools to make infrastructure improvements and community planning drills to make it harder for would-be school shooters to achieve their aims. I also think that society needs to do more to recognize and address mental illness.
I think that the best way to solve our gun violence epidemic is to bring people together. Right now gun control advocates and gun rights activists dominate the debate making it highly politicized. Very few people are convening these different groups to forge consensus solutions designed to reduce gun violence. I want to fill that void in our community and Springfield.
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?
Davie: Employers will have an advantage in attracting talent by being more attentive to the needs of their employees. Companies do better over the long term by treating their employees with respect. That said, I think it is inappropriate for the state legislature to entangle itself in the logistics of scheduling hours of private sector employees.
Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
Davie: I fully support efforts to make medicinal marijuana available to people in need. I have not yet been convinced that full legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes is in the best interest of the people of Illinois. Many of the arguments that claim that legalization will solve our state’s economic crisis are overblown, and I think this decision should be based on an objective evaluation of the health and addiction risks associated with cannabis. On the one hand, marijuana is arguably safer than alcohol and people who want it know how to get it easily. On the other hand, legalization sets a norm and may encourage younger people to partake in a drug that can have a severe effect on the brain development of abusers.
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?
Davie: Addressing the opioid epidemic is one of my top priorities in the Illinois Senate. My own family is one of the families devastated by this disease, as my brother-in-law committed suicide in my home after a lifetime battle with addiction and depression.
I have been spending a lot of time with the Lake County Opioid Initiative and Live4Lali. This is a complex issue, and it can be counterproductive for legislators to dive after legislation that seems popular. I’ve learned that the best way to address the opioid epidemic is to pursue data-driven solutions that fit within a comprehensive framework. Illinois has started this process with the State of Illinois Opioid Action Plan, but we are moving too slowly to implement the reforms suggested. We need advance specific proposals focusing on the three pillars: (1) Prevention; (2) Treatment; and (3) Recovery and Response. I will use all my powers of persuasion to move forward the reforms our local experts believe can make the most significant difference. I support the recent effort to replace opioid medications with medicinal marijuana when medically preferable.
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?
Davie: This legislation is an essential catalyst for shifting our energy use to clean and renewable energy. This legislation is energy efficiency in our state, which lowers the cost of living for people and small businesses. Global climate change poses a significant threat to our planet, and our region, and we must continue to move towards increasing energy efficiency and move further toward clean alternative energy sources. I believe that renewable biofuels hold the potential to be a significant source of our energy supply, and I am interested in exploring how legislation can encourage technological developments in this emerging field.
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?
Davie: The most important thing we can do to ensure that our most in need populations have access to quality and affordable health care is to ensure that we are focusing Medicaid benefits on those most in need. We should be careful about expanding Medicaid benefits to higher income populations who can otherwise afford health care insurance.
I think it is wise to move Medicaid towards managed care rather than fee for service. Managed care tends to provide higher quality care at a lower cost. With managed care, beneficiaries will be able to develop a relationship with their physicians and will be less likely to use the emergency room for primary care services.
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?
Davie: Yes, this is a legitimate concern. Shortchanging programs that engage prisoners is short-sighted because we are only inviting more crime and recidivism when we release prisoners unprepared to cope with freedom.
Public safety and the prisons are one of the core responsibilities of our state government. Unfortunately, decades of fiscal mismanagement by our state legislators have allowed debt and pension liabilities to crowd out spending on the state’s core responsibilities. The legislature needs to address our pension system in a constitutionally acceptable way so that we can refinance our debts and open up resources for our core responsibilities.
Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?
Davie: This is not an issue I have had the opportunity to study in depth. However, generally speaking, I think parole can be appropriate if the parolees are determined not to be a risk to society when released.
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 ofthe PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported togetherhere.