Running for: State Representative of the 56th District
Political party affiliation: Republican
Political/civic background: Former President of Schaumburg Athletic Association and League Commissioner with 33 years involvement in non-paid positions. Schaumburg Jaycees, coach, Miss America Pageant system, Sister Cities host family, District 54 Citizens Advisory, Elgin O’Hare Citizens Advisory Council, Young Sportsman’s Soccer League Vice President, Illinois Youth Soccer Referee Instructor and Assessor
Occupation: Small Business Owner
Education: College, Military
Campaign website: KegariseforIllinois.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. Scott Kegarise submitted the following responses:
1. 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.
The impact of the shutdown has crippled our state’s already unstable economy. Jobs have been lost, businesses have been shuttered or closed, and there has been little to no help from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The Governor should work with the legislature, with business and community leaders, and find solutions independent of partisanship. We need to be focused on the things we can do to help keep our family, friends, and neighbors safe and prosperous.
2. 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?
The COVID-19 pandemic is something none of us have experienced before, and without that experience to fall back on it is no surprise there have been problems. While I believe the Governor was initially sincere in his actions to protect our state, he has been unwilling or unable to adapt to the ever-changing situation. I am disappointed by the inability of the IDES system which has let down the 1 million Illinois citizens who lost employment. Many more lives have been impacted economically than by the actual disease and its equally important to find ways to recover. Such solutions come from cooperation, not executive orders or unilateral decisions.
3. 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?
We need to invest more into our police departments and into our policemen and policewomen. We must equip these first responders with the tools to handle situations without bias while providing the public increased accountability. It is important to think of public safety not just as policing, but an investment in community service. Continued police training and education, a refocus on community involvement, and the use of body cameras will help increase trust and accountability between officers and the community.
4. Should the Legislature pass a law requiring all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras? Why or why not?
The use of body cameras will help increase trust and accountability between officers and the community and I support any effort to increase transparency.
5. 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 should resign immediately from his leadership positions. He has lost the trust of Illinois citizens who are fed up with the culture of corruption destroying our state. He is the longest serving leader at both the state and federal levels in the country. As such, I fully support term limits for leadership. Speaker Madigan has proven no single individual should hold powerful leadership positions for as long as he has. I am the only candidate in the race to call publicly for the Speaker to step down from his leadership roles. If elected, I will vote against another two-year term for Speaker Madigan. I support House Bill 4042 which would ban lawmakers from working as lobbyists while in office. The fact that Springfield politicians have been able to double dip, making money from both ends of government, is a travesty. Additionally, I support a lobbying ban on lawmakers’ immediate family, including spouses or others living with them. Retiring elected officials should be prohibited from paid lobby efforts for a period of two years after leaving office.
6. Please tell us about your civic work in the last two years, whether it’s legislation you have sponsored or work you done in other ways to improve your community.
Our family has been passionate about volunteering locally over the last 4 decades. Recently my wife and I volunteered our time to recycling events including paper shredding, and a loan closet establishment for local foundations. We have also participated in local events benefiting School Foundation funding as well as food distribution to local families during the pandemic. My wife spent 26 years serving as an unpaid board member of the Schaumburg School District 54. Being the Road District Commissioner provides me with many opportunities to benefit and improve the community. One example was a collaboration with the Toll Authority and the Township to alleviate flooding for families in a subdivision. Working collaboratively with homeowners and local agencies we were able to solve a problem and make a difference.
7. 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.
One of the biggest concerns specific to my district is the large property tax burden our local families bear. We love our communities, but our state has the highest property taxes and its forcing families to leave. These burdens have resulted in the largest out migration of any state. I also hear a lot about our state’s weak economic health and the inability to pay for ever increasing mandates. This legislature tends to impose stricter mandates on local governments without a funding source. Additionally, specific to my district I want to help establish opportunities for handicapped individuals find generational housing to maintain their independence.
8. What are your other top legislative priorities?
Illinois unfunded pensions for state and local government employees’ is growing every year. Our state spends nearly double the average on its pension programs, ballooning our pension debt to $140 billion. This yearly burden accounts for $31 of every $100 tax dollars sent to Springfield. Moving forward, it is important preserve retirement benefits already earned while making critical changes to future enrollment. For those currently in the pension system, the state should honor their commitment. But for those coming into the system, it should be a shared pension system, much like a 401k.
9. What is your position on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax? Please explain.
I don’t trust Springfield politicians, and most Illinoisans don’t trust them either. Why should we? We have been let down time and time again. While they promise to only raise taxes on the top 3% now, the constitutional amendment would allow politicians to raise taxes on ANY tax bracket without approval in the future. People often like to say, “we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” That is true, however I would argue we have a greater character problem. Our state leaders are short on credibility and long on distrust. We have the largest pension debt burden, a bond rating that is very close to junk bond status, one of the worst budgets in the country, the worst outward migration, the highest property taxes, ramped corruption in government, and increasing taxes would only make those problems worse. Leadership, cooperation, and sincerity, not tax hikes, are the solutions.
10. 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?
Illinois fiscal outlook is grim. We have the highest property taxes in the nation and according to a report from US News our state is 49th in education and 50th in fiscal stability. Increasing taxes on an already over-burdened state would sink our economy deeper in a hole. Small businesses and the workers they hired must be incentivized to stay in Illinois or they will leave for greener pastures. Over the last decade Illinois saw the nation’s worst population decrease. The loss is estimated to have cost the state $3.45 billion, ironically the same amount Governor Pritzker generously estimates for his progressive state income tax plan. Illinois unfunded pensions for state and local government employees’ is growing every year. Our state spends nearly double the average on its pension programs, ballooning our pension debt to $140 billion. This yearly burden accounts for $31 of every $100 tax dollars sent to Springfield. Moving forward, it is important to preserve retirement benefits already earned while making critical changes to future enrollment. For those currently in the pension system, the state should honor their commitment. But for those coming into the system, it should be a shared pension system, much like a 401k.
11. Should Illinois consider taxing the retirement incomes of its very wealthiest residents, as most states do? And your argument is?
I do not support increasing taxes on retired Illinoisans. Most senior citizens live on modest fixed incomes and any tax increases will adversely impact their ability to adapt to such a loss. According to a 2019 poll from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, 3 in 4 Illinoisans oppose taxing retirement income.
12. What can Illinois do to improve its elementary and high schools?
District 54 has many blue-ribbon school in the district We should be looking toward the success of districts such as this and try to duplicate.
13. Mass shootings and gun violence plague America. What can or should the Legislature do, if anything, to address this problem in Illinois?
Our States’ Attorney needs to make sure that the decision of the judge is upheld. No random releases of convicted individuals having committed a crime with a gun should ever be allowed, and a multiple offender should have his sentence maintained unless overturned by another court.
14. Do you favor or oppose term limits for any elected official in Illinois? Please explain.
I fully support term limits for leadership. Speaker Madigan has proven no single individual should hold powerful leadership positions for as long as he has.
15. 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?
We should adopt boundaries which are party neutral and allow elections to more accurately reflect their community. Illinoisans should stand up and demand a fair map.
16. 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?
I support a ban on lawmakers from working as lobbyists while in office. The fact that Springfield politicians have been able to double dip, making money from both ends of government, is a travesty. Additionally, I support a lobbying ban on lawmakers’ immediate family, including spouses or others living with them. Retiring elected officials should be prohibited from paid lobby efforts for a period of two years after leaving office.
17. 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?
Legislation should be enacted to disallow companies from selling any information collected from any device.
18. 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?
Tax credit to parents of students enrolled in Illinois universities.
19. What is your top legislative priority with respect to the environment?
Reduction of our carbon footprint.
20. 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.
Jim Thompson. He was able to work with both sides of the aisle. There is a platitude from Dale Carnegie that when two men are rowing a boat across the lake and there develops a hole in the bottom that if one of them doesn’t plug the hole with his finger then they both shall drown. We have many holes in our legislative boat we must work together to stop from drowning.
21. What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
Stargate, it speaks to the future success of mankind and exploring new frontiers. We must work jointly to ensure that our children and grandchildren have the potential to go where no man has gone before.