For Carolyn Schofield, Paul Serwatka, Allen Skillicorn and Dan Wilbrandt, the foremost issue is rescuing Illinois from what Gov. Bruce Rauner has called a “death spiral” of rising taxes and taxpayers and employers giving up and moving elsewhere.
All four candidates back the reforms of Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda.” Rauner’s platform, which includes reform to workers’ compensation and tort laws, and curtailing collective bargaining, has contributed to the ongoing eight-month budget impasse between Rauner and Democratic lawmakers who control the General Assembly.
Skillicorn, an East Dundee trustee and vice chairman of the Kane County Republican Party, is particularly focused on reining in the state’s workers’ compensation laws, which he calls a job killer. The marketing director joked that the only people getting ahead in Illinois these days are workers’ compensation attorneys and those in the moving business.
“We need to create an environment in which we can build an economy and build jobs,” Skillicorn said.
Schofield, Skillicorn and Wilbrandt met Tuesday with the Northwest Herald Editorial Board to discuss their platforms. Serwatka declined to attend, although he submitted a questionnaire like his fellow candidates.
Schofield and Wilbrandt pointed to their ability to compromise to get things done as assets rather than liabilities, given that the Democratic Party holds House and Senate supermajorities.
Wilbrandt, a West Dundee trustee and McHenry County assistant state’s attorney, said both sides have to reach a quick and constitutionally acceptable consensus on how to fix the state pension crisis. Illinois has at least $111 billion in unfunded pension liability, not counting health and insurance benefits.
Without adopting radical fixes to how Illinois does business, Wilbrandt said, the five state-run pension systems will run dry.
“If we don’t make these reforms and these fixes, the other side has to realize that there won’t be any pensions, there won’t be any money,” Wilbrandt said.
Schofield, of Crystal Lake, served on the City Council before her 2012 election to the McHenry County Board and represents the county on the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.
She said that fundamental reforms to improve the state’s business climate will improve the tax base, which will help lower Illinois’ crushing property tax burden and stem the tide of migration to other states.
Illinois leads the nation in population loss to other states, according to U.S. Census figures. Outmigration last year reached six figures for the first time.
“I’m very concerned about that at a personal level as well as the entire state. I want to bring people back here,” Schofield said.
Although he holds elected office, Serwatka is campaigning as a citizen legislator and calls the other three establishment candidates who will not get anything fixed. Serwatka ran a successful write-in campaign last year for Lakewood village trustee, riding discontent over the village’s pursuit of a tax increment financing district and other decisions.
He is former firefighter paramedic turned small business owner and real estate broker.
“I believe we are in dire need of God-fearing, principled leadership in Illinois, and I will strive, every day, to be an example of that,” Serwatka said in his questionnaire. “I will be ever mindful that I am there to serve the people, to enrich the taxpayer and to empower families, and I will be ever vigilant in my fight against the professional, career politicians who are there to serve, to enrich and to empower themselves.”
All four candidates support term limits for both rank-and-file lawmakers and legislative leaders, and the ongoing effort for a constitutional amendment to reform how legislative districts are drawn.
The winner of the March 15 primary will run against Democratic opponent Nancy Zettler of Algonquin.
Tryon, a Republican from Crystal Lake who was first elected in 2004, is not seeking a seventh two-year term.
Visit NWHerald.com/election-central to learn more about the candidates and issues in the 2016 election.