Name: Dave Seiler
Seat: State Representative, 107th District
Describe your background, and how it relates to being a state legislator.
I am a native of the 107th district who owes his success to the family, friends and Beecher City grade school teachers who taught me the values of hard work, honesty and education. I owe my 32-year career in education to the high school and college administrators who showed faith in hiring me to be an educator in the area. I owe thanks to my students who I taught and learned with over the course of my career in the classroom.
I stayed local to attend college, getting degrees from Lake Land College, EIU and Indiana State. My wife and I stayed in Effingham while we raised our three children so they could gain the same values we learned here. I’ve been active in the community, serving as my union local president numerous times as well as two terms on the library board. I have contributed to local community and parish history books. I’m currently in my second stint as Chair of the Effingham Democratic Central Committee.
Grade the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I believe that much of the split public opinion on Governor Pritzker comes from the locally elected leadership. The local legislators find a way to criticize the governor no matter what he does, so it’s not surprising they were hypercritical of Governor Pritzker’s handling of COVID-19. Many local folks followed the lead of these critical legislators and we’re paying a price now with an uptick in the COVID-19 infection rate.
But I’ve spoken with many local citizens who believe Governor Pritzker was correct to take a cautious approach. These folks were appalled when Representative Wilhour cheered businesses that violated the governor’s directives.
I do think that the initial shutdown might have been better rolled out regionally. Had I been the state representative, I would have most certainly been on better terms with the governor than Representative Wilhour or the other local representatives and senators. Possibly, I could have worked with the governor to implement an approach that would have stayed within federal guidelines and had less of an impact on the economy.
What can the state legislature do to help with the recovery from the pandemic?
One thing for certain is that local legislators ought to support the federal government assistance plan to the states. It’s pretty shocking that some of these local legislators, who ought to be fighting to help the state, have spoken out against the idea. It’s simply unpatriotic and an abandonment of their duty.
I think one part of the initial pandemic response that was handled poorly was the unemployment payments through IDES. From what I’ve read, the system was simply overwhelmed. Getting IDES straightened out should be a top priority.
COVID-19 is going to continue to be a struggle for the foreseeable future and so it’s even more important that the local area have someone in Springfield who is part of the majority party. If I’m elected, I will have a much better chance of implementing solutions proposed by local leaders. If we continue with our current crop of local leaders, I suspect that we’ll continue to hear them complain but see little in the way of tangible results.
Besides the pandemic, what is the biggest issue facing the state, and how does it affect the people in your district? How will you address it?
Getting the state budget straightened out has to be job one for every legislative session until it’s corrected. Step one in this process needs to be passing the graduated tax. Failure to pass it will likely lead to a tax hike on all of us, with a resultant negative economic impact. If the graduated tax is passed, I’ll push to repeal some of the regressive tax and fees that were passed a year ago. The $50 hike in license plate fees is a tough one to swallow for many folks. The graduated tax is also step one in correcting the skewed system of property taxes.
On a different note, we have to start valuing people more. The opioid addiction problem seems to be off the radar of too many local leaders. Issues of sexism and racism often get swept under the rug. If I’m elected, I pledge to host weekly “Community Classroom” town hall meetings where citizens can hear from experts about how issues can be addressed. Citizens will be able to join in and share their stories. Together we can learn and together we can find solutions.
Describe an issue that is unique to your district and how you would address it in the legislature.
“Bringing folks together” is a common goal of politicians but it is especially challenging in the 107th district, where we’ve had leaders stoking division for the last few years. I think my Community Classroom is step one in that process.
But what I’ve also learned about the 107th district is that development has been a bit uneven. Effingham has done well due to its location at the crossing of I-70 and I-57 but other parts of the district could benefit from expansion of highways. I will push for ways to restart the four laning of Route 51 from Pana to Vandalia. This could be transformative for Vandalia as well as the state, completing a project that has been left 3/4 complete for far too long.
Additionally, the four laning of Route 50 across Illinois would be of great help to Marion County and Clinton County. We need leaders with a “can-do” approach instead of leaders who simply pick fights with Springfield and Chicago.
While it’s not unique to the 107th, I think we are woefully behind in bringing internet connectivity to our area. Bridging the digital divide should be a priority.
What is your position on the progressive tax amendment? Why do you support or oppose it?
I’ve wholeheartedly supported the progressive tax amendment as far back as the last election. It’s absolutely step one in getting the Illinois fiscal house in order. The amendment raises a significant amount of funds without raising taxes on the middle class and actually implementing a tax cut for the lower class.
Passage of the progressive tax could allow the state to repeal some of the regressive taxes and fees passed a year or so ago. Passage of the progressive tax is also necessary to begin the process of unskewing a terribly skewed property tax system.
It’s not surprising that opponents are squawking about the progressive tax but the opposition seems short sighted. After its passage, I believe Illinois will look back and wonder why we didn’t make the switch a long time ago. I believe the bond rating of the state will improve as a result of the positive action taken and that we can start to normalize our budget processes.
I am disappointed in how the opposition seems intent on using misinformation to try and defeat the initiative. The opponents attempt to scare folks by mixing in pension issues is intentionally confusing the issue.
If you are elected, how would you reach out to constituents who did not vote for you and what would you do to make sure their concerns are heard? How in general will you stay connected to your constituents?
My Community Classroom initiative is a tried-and-true method of bringing folks together. In other districts, town hall sessions are commonplace but it’s difficult to recall the last one hosted locally.
What I won’t do is host single-issue rallies that essentially tell constituents with opposing views that their opinions aren’t valued. Elected representatives need to lay off the divisive issues after the election is over and be open to hearing from all constituents. The 24/7/365 approach to partisan politics causes many folks to essentially give up on government if they are in disagreement with the representative.
I also think that a rabidly partisan approach has a negative impact on constituent services. The state representative’s office ought to be a conduit to Springfield for everyone in the district but oftentimes it’s not utilized that way. Due to the partisanship, some view that representative’s office as unwelcome territory, and that is regrettable.
Describe how you would find ways to work with legislators on the other side of the aisle.
Many of my views have crossover appeal. This fact has cost me endorsements at times but I think they are a reflection of my “can do” approach to governance. I proposed that the COVID approach be rolled out regionally. I proposed a similar idea in regards to minimum wage. I think there are hybrid pension options that ought to be designed which could be beneficial to both pensioners as well as the state.
I think “my way or the highway” approaches lead to harsh feelings and discontent but that unfortunately has been the approach of my opponent. Representative Wilhour has a 2% rating with Illinois AFL-CIO and a 0% rating with the Illinois Federation of Teachers. Such an approach leaves a representative with little bargaining room to negotiate on behalf of the district.
While I’ve never been a legislator, I have led local folks to understand the need for shared sacrifice. I was union president during the Rauner budget crisis and I convinced my Lake Land College colleagues that rolling over a contract with a 0% raise was the way to save six positions as well as being the right thing to do.