Voters in the 63rd House District will decide Nov. 8 who they want to succeed longtime Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks.
They, and the rest of McHenry County’s voters, will choose between Franks and Republican Michael Walkup for the chairmanship of the County Board. But district voters also will decide whether Republican candidate Steven Reick or Democratic candidate John Bartman represents their interests in Springfield.
Both candidates oppose increasing state taxes, and identify lowering property taxes as a top priority, albeit through different methods.
Reick, 63, a self-employed tax attorney from Woodstock, said that he wants to help stop the status quo in Springfield, and identified education funding reform as a key way to lower the property-tax burden. McHenry County’s burden is among the highest in the nation.
“I want to lower taxes by proposing changes to education funding, changes which put more power in the hands of parents. The status quo has driven people and jobs out of Illinois because the Legislature does the bidding of groups that have bought and paid for it instead of the work of the people,” Reick said.
Bartman, a fifth-generation Marengo farmer and small-business owner, said he wants to continue the tax fighting work he said Franks did, which helped the Democratic representative hold onto a solidly conservative district.
“I am the only candidate prepared to pick up Jack Franks’ torch and be an outspoken critic of waste and fraud as well as an uncompromising fighter of taxes in Springfield,” said Bartman, 39.
Reick said getting the state’s fiscal house back in order cannot happen without reform to the five state-run pension systems, which have an unfunded liability of at least $111 billion, not counting benefits. Pensions now take up almost 25 percent of the state budget.
Reform is easier said than done, especially with an Illinois Supreme Court ruling reinforcing the constitutional mandate that existing benefits cannot be diminished.
Reick said the state needs to treat the portion of the budget set aside for the pension underfunding as a capital project and find a dedicated, but revenue-neutral, source to pay it down. He supports moving all new state employees to a defined-contribution system, and said that taxpayers can no longer afford holding all the portfolio risk of an unsustainable defined-benefit system.
“Many of my clients are pilots for United Airlines, and I know firsthand what it looks like when a pension plan explodes, and it’s not pretty. The same thing is happening here, only the numbers are bigger and the taxpayers are going to be left holding the bag,” Reick said.
For Bartman, the answer is simple – he said getting the state economy back on track and increasing tax revenue through economic growth is the best cure for the pension problem. Like Reick, he said he will not vote for a tax increase. He called the state tax system “anti-family” and cited the tax burden as one of the reasons why people are leaving.
Bartman said one of his priorities if elected will be to target and eliminate unneeded corporate tax loopholes, which Franks had prioritized as a solution during the state budget impasse.
“Currently, corporations enjoy over $2 billion worth of tax loopholes that need immediate review. If these breaks are found not necessary, then they should be removed. Why is the state of Illinois giving Exxon a tax break for offshore drilling? Let’s put our kids’ education before corporations,” Bartman said.
Reick said he fully supports the “Turnaround Agenda” of Gov. Bruce Rauner, singling out changing workers’ compensation and prevailing wage laws, and tort reform.
“We can’t begin to grow jobs and prosperity in this state until we provide the conditions in which businesses will be encouraged to come to Illinois,” Reick said.
Bartman said he supports the agenda’s proposed property-tax freeze, and that he would work with anyone regardless of party on other solutions.
Both candidates support redistricting reform – the Supreme Court nixed another attempt by a good-government group to get a constitutional amendment before voters. Bartman said he believes in term limits for leadership and signaled that he would not, if elected, vote to re-elect Michael Madigan to another term as House speaker.
“I may just vote for myself for speaker,” Bartman said.
Reick and Bartman distanced themselves from their party’s presidential nominee. Reick said he is focused in the 63rd District, and that neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton can reduce McHenry County’s property taxes, while Bartman said that neither candidate is a strong one, and that he will leave that decision to individual voters.
The 63rd District covers western and northern McHenry County, including all or parts of Marengo, Union, Harvard, Hebron, Woodstock, Johnsburg, McCullom Lake, McHenry, Wonder Lake, Ringwood and Richmond.