For the 2018 November general election, the Northwest Herald sent out questionnaires to candidates running for office.
Those questionnaires from each candidate that responded are featured on our Election Central website for our readers to help you make informed decisions when you go to the polls.
The purpose is to help our readers to get know the candidates and where they stand on the important issues facing McHenry County this election. Click here to check out the rest of our questionnaires, videos and more for this election.
Name: Dan McConchie
Town: Hawthorn Woods
Office sought: State Senate District 26
MA, Christian Thought, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL
BA, Bible, Central Bible College, Springfield, MO
Elected offices held: State Senate District 26
1. Why are you the best person to represent the 26th District?
I am in the Illinois Senate to cut spending, lower taxes and fight corruption.
In my career, I have experience both managing an organizational budget and meeting a payroll. I understand exactly what Illinois families and small business owners face every day under our dysfunctional state government.
I am not a career politician. As an outsider who owes nothing to the Springfield elite, my entire focus is on representing the people of the 26th District and partnering with other like-minded legislators to bring common sense perspectives back to Springfield.
2. What are your top three legislative priorities?
Top issue for me is property tax reform. See Question 7 for a full explanation.
Next, getting a true balanced budget is key. Despite raising taxes last year by $5.5 billion, we still have a $1.2 billion structural deficit. Senate Democrats proceeded this year with passage of bills that would have spent an additional $1.4 billion a year if they had become law. There is an insatiable appetite in Springfield for spending other peoples’ money. It has to stop.
Third is reform of higher education in Illinois. We are losing way too many kids to other states. See Question #9 for a full explanation.
3. How will you be effective in a state Senate that is likely to remain under the control of Senate President John Cullerton and the Democratic Party?
The Senate rank and file from both sides of the aisle actually work quite well together. Additionally, President Cullerton has repeatedly demonstrated his interest in working with all legislators, regardless of party. When I’m working a bill that benefits the 26th District and there is some issue that is preventing its advancement, he has always given me an audience when I’ve asked for one to see if we could work out the details. Certainly, we disagree on many things, but by treating the other party with respect, my ideas are respected and heard. Unfortunately, the Speaker and special interests still exercise an outsized influence over the Senate preventing many good ideas from seeing the light of day.
4. Pension obligations consume a growing share of local, county and state government budgets, and the state has more than $100 billion in unfunded pension liability. What should the legislature do to address this problem?
Illinois simply cannot tax, borrow, or invest its way out of a debt this big. We must continue smaller efforts until we can secure fundamental reform.
On the smaller efforts, I am proud to have sponsored legislation that was adopted this year that lowers pension costs by $480 million per year. We must continue to find other smaller fixes that save taxpayers real money, such as ending the ability of local governments to add to the state’s pension liability when they choose to raise salaries. On this last point, I have introduced legislation that would do just that.
And we must continue to work on fundamental reform, which will only happen when all the parties come to the table and negotiate in earnest, especially the unions. If left unreformed, our severely underfunded pension system will continue to grow and completely swallow the state budget.
In the end, it is a moral issue. Government employees deserve the security and control of owning their own retirement accounts and shouldn’t have to pay into a system that may collapse and leave them with no money when they retire.
5. Should the 32 percent income tax hike that took effect in 2017 be repealed? If so, how should the state levy income tax and at what rate?
Absolutely. In fact, Senator Kyle McCarter and I introduced a budget proposal before the latest income tax increase that was balanced and lived within our means at the previous 3.75 percent income tax level. We can reduce the tax back to that level and still balance the budget by consolidating programs we have now and work to eliminate waste, especially in Medicaid.
The path to putting our budget where it ought to be must include regulatory rollback and property tax reform to help stem the tide of people leaving our state. This will help create a pro-business environment that grows the economy and our tax receipts along with it.
6. Should marijuana be legalized for recreational use in Illinois? If so, how? If not, why not?
There are a number of experiments going on in other states right now. And the data is mixed. There is more income to the states thanks to taxes on the product, but there are also negative societal impacts.
The top question for me is whether it is good for our communities. The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association and the Illinois Association for Chiefs of Police are both opposed. They have looked at Colorado who legalized recreational marijuana in 2013 and found:
• Marijuana-related traffic deaths have increased 66 percent
• Marijuana-related hospitalizations have increased 72 percent
• Property crime has increased 8.3 percent
• Violent crime has increased 18.6 percent
As long as law enforcement believes that it will be a scourge on our communities, I will remain opposed.
7. How can lawmakers provide property tax relief for homeowners? How will you work to make this happen?
The first thing we need to do is put people back in control of their local property taxes by changing state law to allow for people to go to referendum to lower their property taxes, not just to raise them. This year, I introduced SB2670 to give voters that power. Unfortunately, it was not even brought up for a hearing. This will be one of the first bills I will reintroduce next year.
Next, we need to continue to increase funding for education from the state level and require school districts to reduce their property tax burden as they get new funds.
Additionally, we need to consolidate many local government units, including school districts. It is beyond me why we have Kindergarten – 8th grade school districts separate from high school districts with duplicate administrative overhead. And in our state we have many school districts have only one school in it.
Property taxes are regressive in nature disproportionately effecting middle-income taxpayers, those on fixed income, and small businesses. We need to move away from our reliance on property taxes as soon as possible.
8. Who do you support in the race for Illinois governor, and how would you work with that person to help the 26th District?
I support Governor Rauner for a second term.
Rauner ran for office promoting a list of 44 priorities to help keep business in the state and stem our population loss. Sensing political opportunity, Mike Madigan and the legislative leadership have worked tirelessly to prevent any of those ideas from becoming law in order to deprive the Governor of a “win”. That set the stage for the endless war between the executive and legislative branches over the past four years.
The reforms Bruce Rauner has promoted are vitally necessary. J.B. Pritzker is more of the status quo that we’ve had for decades.
9. Illinois is among the nation's top exporters of college students. How can the legislature help to make in-state universities more affordable and competitive?
The way we run our state universities is completely backward: we micromanage everyday operations like procurement and ignore the big picture by allowing campuses to run virtually any program they want regardless of how many students are actually interested in and enroll in those programs.
First thing is for us to do is tie the state funding colleges receive to a state-wide plan for higher education. We have unnecessary and duplicative programs on many of our campuses that should be streamlined or eliminated. A statewide plan would ensure that all state universities fit together in a cohesive whole that puts students first and lowers overall costs. Any state university that doesn’t want to follow the plan can become private and run their operations without the benefit of state support.
Then, we need to reduce the red tape and obligations the state places on each school for everyday activities, such as dictating what sort of printer ink schools can buy. We need to free the schools to buy and build competitively lowering the everyday cost of doing business.