Republican Dan Ugaste and Republican Richard Johnson are seeking the 65th district seat in the Illinois House.
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.
Ugaste submitted the following responses:
Please explain what cause or causes you will make priorities.
Ugaste: Fiscal responsibility. We need to become fiscally responsible as a state and this needs to be done by reducing spending, not increasing taxes. We must also start reducing our taxes where we can. Finally, we need to work on reforms to help our business climate, while protecting our citizens and our workers, such as Workers’ Compensation reform – an area where I have a vast amount of expertise, since this has been my main area of practice for the last 30 years.
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.
Ugaste: First, property tax relief – we need to start work on reducing the burden (consolidation of units of government, repealing unfunded mandates). Second, workers compensation reform that still protects our workers, yet is more equitable and less financially harmful to business owners. Third, addressing the opioid crisis as described in a later question.
Who is Dan Ugaste?
He’s running for: Illinois House of Representatives, 65th District
His political/civic background:
- Church: United Methodist Church of Geneva and St. Athanasios Greek Orthodox Church, Aurora
- Appointed Office:
- Illinois Workers Compensation Medical Fee Advisory Former Board Member (Past)
- Technical Advisor to Governor’s Office on Workers Comp Reform
His occupation: Attorney
- Lake Forest College B.A. – 1985
- DePaul University College of Law – J.D. 1988
Campaign website: ugasteforillinois.com
What are the most important differences between you and your opponent?
Ugaste: I will vote as an independent legislator. My opponent will support current leadership.
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?
Ugaste: Create more economic opportunity. People go where they see jobs and the best place to build a future. Unfortunately, Illinois appears to have bleaker prospects than many other states, including our neighboring states. As long as our State refuses to address its problems (pension liabilities, past due bills, overspending, over taxing…) and will not stop looking to additional taxes as a way to try to solve its problems, people will continue to leave, which will only cause the situation to worsen since the debt burden will not change accordingly.
This will occur because the people of this State are smart enough to know that the current system and the culture in State government are impossible to sustain. Therefore, whatever opportunities currently exist will cease to exist in the future as more businesses and people move to other states with pro-growth climates. States where, once an individual finds a good job, they can keep what they earn and not have it taken from them by a State government that is mismanaged. The trend can be reversed with a lot of hard work and painful financial decisions, but the current culture in State government must be changed.
In 2017, our state’s unfunded pension liability ballooned to more than $130 billion. What’s to be done about that?
Ugaste: I do not support changing any pension that has already been earned. I think we should amend the State Constitution to allow for an immediate change to benefits for current employees from the date of the amendment forward, and also a change to the compounded COLA benefit. Government employees, like those in the private sector must go into a defined contribution system. The alternative is inevitable insolvency.
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?
Ugaste: The reversal of the drain of people, talent and income from Illinois can only be solved by attacking the problem at its source, financial instability and irresponsibility. Until we stop excessive spending, excessive taxation and fee burdens, and incorporate a long term plan to resolve our debt — and stick to it — we will continue to spiral toward un unrecoverable collapse of our economy. No student or graduate wants to stay in an area where job opportunities and upward mobility are scarce.
What laws, if any, should the Legislature pass to address the problem of gun violence?
Ugaste: Generally gun laws are adequate in Illinois. However, we should look at ways to keep mentally unstable people from possessing guns. Otherwise, enforcement and penalties need to be enforced on illegal use of guns and criminals who use them.
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?
Ugaste: Government should not become over-involved in private business employee scheduling, but 24 hours seems like a fair notice that should apply to both employers and employees. Whether a change in schedule is requested by an employee or employer, flexibility should be allowed to have either fill in any shift vacancies with other employees, whether arranged by the employer or employee. In short, other than 24 hours as a guideline, they should work it out on their own.
Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
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?
Ugaste: Authorize funding for local government to acquire Naxalone to help revive overdose patients instead of just legislating an unfunded mandate to require local governments to provide the training and service. We also need to consider increasing the penalties for illegally distributing these drugs.
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?
Ugaste: I agree that there is more future economic growth in promoting renewable energy resources than protecting non-renewable energy resources. Still, we cannot abandon the current non-renewable industries, but should transition to support renewable energy and encourage the creation of non-renewable energy industry jobs especially in areas of Illinois where residents would be losing jobs in the renewable energy industries.
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?
Ugaste: I would return Medicaid eligibility requirements to pre-Blagojevich standards and make sure all eligible recipients understand that the past fiscal irresponsibility of the people who ran state government may impact the quantity and quality of health care that is currently available for free.
I would still support the Illinois health care program for children (All Kids). I would work very hard to ensure reasonably priced and adequately optioned health care plans available for low income Illinois residents through regulation by the Illinois Department of Insurance regardless of what happens at the federal level with ACA.
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?
Ugaste: All state departments receive less funding than they may need due to the financial crisis caused by decades of mismanagement. Part of being a legislator is making choices on funding and prioritizing the needs of our citizens.
Frankly, if I am presented with a choice of providing additional funding for educating innocent school kids, if it is needed, or additional funding for training state prison inmates, the school kids get the funding.
The solution to avoiding hard choices is fiscal responsibility, and maybe after a long period of fiscal responsibility, we will be in a position to fund both. Until that time, prisoners should take full advantage of the prison library and look to other more educated inmates who are willing to tutor or train them so that when they are released they have the knowledge to acquire gainful employment or an apprenticeship.
Should the state restore the practice of parole for people sentenced to long terms? Why or why not?
Ugaste: The main reason parole was abolished was because legislators felt that the rate of released prisoners returning to prison were high enough that it made no sense to release them early.
If a study is available of the cost efficiency of parole versus any decrease in public safety should be reviewed.
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.