Voters in the 26th Senate District on Nov. 6 will weigh in on the only contested Illinois Senate race in McHenry County.
Democratic candidate Amanda Howland is challenging Republican incumbent Dan Duffy for the seat. Under post-census redistricting, the 26th District’s boundaries in McHenry County shift south to cover Cary, Fox River Grove, eastern Algonquin, Lake in the Hills and Crystal Lake, as well as parts of Lake, Kane and Cook counties.
Candidates for the 32nd and 33rd Senate districts covering the remainder of the county – Republican incumbent Pam Althoff and newcomer Karen McConnaughay – are running unopposed. All 59 seats in the Senate are up for election because of redistricting.
Howland, an attorney and former teacher living in Lake Zurich, said she would make sure that the record 67 percent income tax increase starts to phase out in 2014 as scheduled. Duffy, a Lake Barrington business owner first elected in 2008, said the increase should be repealed immediately and has co-sponsored legislation to do so.
“Illinois can balance its budget without tax increases if the legislative leaders and the governor make the hard choices needed. The solution is to improve the efficiency of the government, reduce the pension liability and roll back the tax increase,” Duffy said.
Both candidates agree that the state’s pension system is unsustainable and needs to be overhauled. The five state-run systems have an unfunded liability of at least $83 billion – a figure that some experts predict could be much higher because of what they call projections with unrealistic rates of return.
Howland, also a College of Lake County trustee, said she is “very disturbed” by the fact that state lawmakers have continually delayed acting on pension reform, most likely until January, after the elections and in the last days of the current General Assembly.
“Illinois has spent more that it takes in for many, many years, and that’s what put us into this situation,” Howland said. “Pensions are one of the biggest issues right now, and that reform needs to take place.”
Howland said one way to help plug the pension hole is to end tax loopholes for large corporations and invest that new revenue to help the system be sustainable. She also said she is disappointed that teachers have been taking the blame for a pension problem that was caused by years and years of state legislators underfunding the system.
Duffy said the state’s economy cannot recover until comprehensive pension reform is addressed. Most of the money generated by the 2011 income tax increase to help pay the state’s huge backlog of bills was instead eaten by the state’s pension obligations.
“Until we figure out pensions, until we reform pensions, nothing else really matters, because we’re going to continually run out of money for every other area until we solve the pension problem,” Duffy said.
The candidates differ on Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposal to shift the burden of funding teacher pensions to local school districts. Duffy said he does not support such a shift, alleging that it will further increase exorbitant property tax bills. Howland said she would support shifting future pension obligations only if it does not further strain local taxpayers.
Howland and Duffy also are split on the expansion of gambling in Illinois. While Duffy does not support any gambling expansion, Howland said she would support it only if it is strictly monitored and regulated.
But both agreed, if elected, to help tackle the state’s reputation for rapacious corruption that has sent two consecutive governors to prison.
“It’s not Illinois only, but we have become the laughingstock of the states of the nation, and I think we really need to do something to change that,” Howland said.
On the Net
Visit Election Central at NWHerald.com/election to learn more about the races, candidates and issues in the Nov. 6 election.
Visit the McHenry County Clerk’s website at www.co.mchenry.il.us/departments/countyclerk to learn more about the election, and to see the new boundaries of the 26th Senate and other General Assembly districts.