State Rep. Jim Durkin Talks Unfinished Business in Springfield
Candidate Q&A: State Rep. Jim Durkin, the 82nd District incumbent, says the General Assembly should focus entirely on state agency budgets in the next session.
Jim Durkin is no stranger to Springfield. He's represented the 82nd District in the Illinois House since 2006, and before that represented the 44th District from 1995 to 2002. Durkin also served as the ranking Republican on the committee that impeached former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
He's facing Matt Mostowik on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Patch chatted recently with Durkin on how to balance to budget, where the cuts need to be made and how the House can regain its citizens' confidence.
Patch: What unfinished business do you have in Springfield?
Jim Durkin: The issues you see here in the district are not unlike the issues you see in the state. What are we going to do about debt? Are we ever going to balance the budget? How are we going to do it? To me, that is what every member of the legislature should have in mind: where are we going to go next year or the year after. Are we going to continue on this path, or are we going to have to make some very difficult decisions to turn this around?
It's real simple: Spend what you have. Expenses have to match up with the revenues. That's a concept that has been lost over the past eight years. To me, unfinished business is reversing these irresponsible economic policies the majority party has shoved through the past two terms. Twice they've passed unbalanced budgets. We can do better. The priority has to be bringing fiscal responsibility back to the state.
Patch: What do you still want to tackle at the local level?
Durkin: Issues that are local, I can't predict what they are, but we get calls from schools, park districts and from individuals about problems. We try to get involved to expedite and get positive results for people. That is what three-fourths of the job is: Taking care of the day-to-day things that come along in the district when someone has a problem or someone in local government has a problem with Springfield. That's what we're here for.
Patch: What kind of change do you think is in store for Illinois with this election?
Durkin: I think the Republicans are going to do very well. When you have a rapidly changing electorate attitude-wise, and you have more people now who are identifying themselves as independent, it's going to be a very volatile election night. But I do know independent voters are moving very much to the Republican side. It's going to be a good year for Republicans. It's difficult to handicap, but we're going to win a lot.
Patch: If re-elected, how would you try to reach bipartisan solutions?
Durkin: Springfield has just become so partisan. There used to be a time when there was collegiality between Democrats and Republicans. That's long gone. There's no collegiality. I thought when we got rid of Blagojevich there might be a better attitude, but sadly it's gotten worse.
But it's very simple. If [the Democrats] believe that the operations in Springfield need to be changed: Join us. If they want to be obstructionists and throw roadblocks into cutting nuisance spending, balancing the budget and paying the bills, they can go along their way. It shouldn't be a difficult thing if their intentions are good.
Patch: Illinois has been battered year after year with government scandals. How would you try to heal citizens' disillusionment in their representation?
Durkin: I wish I could say that I could legislate morals and good behavior, but I can't. I just hope the public does the appropriate amount of diligence on its candidates. You can't predict how people are going to act. But I think we can start by saying the days of reckless spending are over. I think that's what they want. They'll get their confidence back when they see that we are doing the necessary things to police ourselves.
Patch: Where do you propose making budget cuts to keep the expenses aligned with the revenue?
Durkin: We have to go through the state agencies. The budget process is backwards. Every time there is a budget presented from a major state agency, all it is is an increase from the previous year's budget. There's never been a thorough examination in the appropriation process of the state agencies' appropriations that requires them to justify line-by-line the expenses they're seeking.
What we should do next year—we shouldn't pass any new laws. We should spend the whole next session tearing apart these state agency budgets. We should start the appropriation hearings the day after the General Assembly is sworn in—bring these agencies in one-by-one in front of the whole legislature and start from the beginning. Go down the line and let them explain themselves. If they can't justify a line item, then we zero it out.
Patch: Are there any agencies that you think need to be totally protected from cuts?
Durkin: No. Absolutely not. You can't play one against the other. They are arms and functions of the state government. They run with the taxpayers' understanding that the legislators are the closest thing to checks and balances for taxpayers' money. Nobody should be sacred. I'm not being mean-spirited, but the role of government is not to take on the responsibility of the life of individuals. We should help when we have the ability to do it, but there's only so far we should go.
The 82nd District includes Hinsdale, Western Springs, Burr Ridge, Countryside, Willowbrook and Lemont, and parts of Darien and Downers Grove. Patch also interviewed his opponent, Matt Mostowik. Visit Durkin's website for more on his platform.