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. Marko Sukovic 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: I am running for state Representative because so many of my friends and neighbors have made the decision or are considering leaving the state of Illinois. By fighting for real property tax relief, enacting serious political reforms like term limits and independent maps, and by balancing our state’s budget, we can restore the public’s confidence in our great state. These three items will be my priorities if I am given the honor of serving as a state representative.
Legislative District: Illinois’ 59th State Representative District
- Former political director for Congressman Robert Dold
- Outreach director for Turning Point USA, 501c3.
- Graduating senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
- I also operate my own public relations consultancy as a sole proprietor
- University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, class of 2018
- Stevenson High School, class of 2013
Campaign website: www.markoforillinois.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: Families and businesses across this district are looking for a representative that will be a strong voice for them in Springfield and deliver 1) property tax relief, 2) appropriate funding for our schools and 3) a tax and regulatory environment that is conducive to economic growth.
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: We must resolve this pension crisis if we are going to balance our budget and turn this state around. We must find a way to do this without reneging on our obligations to hard working pensioners who have spent their lifetime’s earning their benefits. The solution will entail offering all new state employees defined contribution plans and eliminating legislative pensions, among other fixes. The wealthiest 1% of pensioners are making incomes over $100k and they should be asked to make contributions to help preserve the solvency of our pension system. If that requires a constitutional amendment, than I would be supportive.
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: While raising the minimum wage would help some low-income workers, it would also lead to some people losing their jobs. It also can put some entry level jobs out of reach for young workers. I believe we strike the best balance when local communities can decide to increase the minimum wage from $8.25 as opposed to a one-size fit all statewide approach.
QUESTION: Should recreational marijuana be legalized in Illinois? Please explain.
ANSWER: Adults should not be criminalized for recreational use of small amounts of marijuana. That said, we cannot ignore the negative effects marijuana abuse can have on people and our community. Accordingly, there should be limits on quantity and it cannot be allowed to be consumed in public or while driving. Furthermore, some of the tax proceeds should be earmarked to fund substance abuse education and counseling.
QUESTION: Would you support more casinos in Illinois, including in Chicago. What about racinos? Please explain.
ANSWER: So long as a community believes it is in their best interest to allow the construction of a casino, and taxpayer funding is not being used, it only makes sense to allow more casinos to be built.
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: I would absolutely support a property tax freeze and would look for it to last at least 4 years.
An additional requests for revenue should be approved by ballot referendum. If municipalities are going to raise property taxes for any reason, they should have to make that case to their constituents and obtain their support.
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: Securing adequate funding for schools in the 59th district would be my top legislative priority as state representative. People move to and live in our community because of the quality of our schools and the guarantee that students here will receive one of the best educations anywhere in America. I am a proud graduate of Stevenson High School, and I know just how important it is that the public schools in our community have the resources they need to help prepare students for tomorrow’s challenges.
With this said, the recent debate over the state’s school funding formula has revealed some important changes that need to be made to ensure that our schools are well funded even in the context of Illinois’ financial crisis. Local governments should not be permitted to draw money away from school districts and then demand the difference from the State. To this point, we need to adopt a hard and fast approach to TIF districts and other special taxing zones that siphon tax dollars away from underfunded schools. We should also consider reducing the number of superintendents and school administrators across our many school districts and strongly consider reforming the lucrative pension packages that are being offered to them.
To the question of funding, when we look at the state’s finances, our interest being paid on debt, our bloated bureaucracy, the unsustainable pension system, all make it such that the most essential portions of the state budget are not able to be appropriated properly. By having a 10% cut across state agencies, implementing structural reforms, and fixing our broken pension system, we can reach adequate funding across all schools.
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: This is an issue which I have already been committed to for some time and will continue to work on as state representative. While working with Congressman Dold, I had the opportunity to champion the cause spearheaded by Chelsea Laliberte and here organization, Live4Lali. I was a part of the effort to engage local stakeholders in the conversation, and was thrilled to see Washington secure funding for our local law enforcements officials to be equipped with Narcan and naloxone. Additionally, while at the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, I helped implement an awareness campaign for organizations seeking authorization to distribute Narcan and naloxone.
With regards to future legislation, the Governor’s task force on the opioid epidemic is leading the way on identifying ways the state can tackle this epidemic, I will take my cue based on their recommendations and the recommendations of the Lake County Opioid Initiative.
QUESTION: Do you support a state ban on gun silencers? Please explain.
ANSWER: I’ve never owned a gun and do not understand what legitimate purpose a silencer serves.
QUESTION: Should all gun dealers in Illinois be licensed by the state? Please explain.
ANSWER: Gun dealers are already heavily regulated by the federal government and licenses are required to be issued by ATF. The State should require background checks of gun dealers and require that all employees carry FOID cards.
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, as long as the gun owner is afforded timely due process to challenge the petition.
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: We need to refocus Medicaid spending on the truly indigent so that they can have quality care. Past Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) eligibility checks have identified that there are thousands of people that receive Medicaid benefits that are ineligible to do so. I believe we can make great strides to improving the program’s viability by rooting out abuse of the system and by continuing on the path toward managed care.
Medicaid managed care has the potential to improve the quality of care while lowering its cost, and these are the kinds of solutions that members of the general assembly should always be looking for.
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: For me, this is personal. It’s the reason I am running for state representative. As a graduating senior at the University of Illinois, I’ve heard and seen too many of my peers make the decision to pick up and leave the state of Illinois.
This is happening for a couple of reasons. One reason they are leaving Illinois is because education in Illinois is simply too expensive, and we should cut down on administrative positions at our state institutions and encourage reviews of university general education requirements. We should also be making it easier for students to earn college credit in high school and outside the classroom, and I look forward to bringing my perspective on the matter to the House committee on Higher Education.
The main reason my peers are leaving is because many of them are looking to move to states that have a reasonable cost of living, lower taxes, and greater career opportunities. Illinois just isn’t competitive in any of these categories, and the only way that will change is if we send someone to Springfield who is familiar with the decisions so many young Illinoisans are being forced to make and is willing to support real reforms.
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: The governor has outlined a series of necessary reforms in his “Turnaround Agenda” that can rehabilitate Illinois’ financial position and restore confidence in our state government. I support many of the proposals the governor has called for, especially his call for fair maps, term limits, and consolidation of local unit of government where appropriate.
I also supported the Governor’s veto of Speaker Madigan’s 32% income tax hike. Now is not the time to raise the tax burden on hardworking Illinois families, and it’s about time we got the legislature on the same page.
Additionally, the governor’s signature on Future Energy Jobs Act was the right move, and it was encouraging to see Illinois take the lead on adopting clean sources of energy. Clean energy can bring thousands of high paying job opportunities to Illinois, and this was an important step in the right direction.
The one point of disagreement I had with the governor was his decision to allow taxpayer contributions to the Medicaid system to be used to subsidize abortion procedures. I would support a state version of the Hyde amendment to repeal this language.