The two candidates for the 26th Illinois Senate District seat share a frustration with Springfield’s problems and opposition to raising taxes to balance the state budget.
Republican incumbent Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods is seeking a full term as senator against a challenge from Democratic candidate Kelly Mazeski of Barrington Hills. McConchie has held the seat since his April appointment to finish the term of Republican Dan Duffy of Lake Barrington, who limited himself to two terms and stepped down early to lead a nonprofit agency.
The district covers southeastern McHenry County, southwestern Lake County, and slivers of Kane and Cook counties, including parts of Crystal Lake, Cary, Fox River Grove, Algonquin, Oakwood Hills, Island Lake, Trout Valley and Barrington Hills.
McConchie, a senior adviser for a business that applies private-sector purchasing to government, served eight years in the Army National Guard as both an infantryman and a military policeman before a hit-and-run driver put him in a wheelchair in 2007. He defeated two GOP opponents in the March primary.
“I understand exactly what Illinois families and small business owners face every day under our dysfunctional state government. I am not a career politician. As an accomplished outsider who owes nothing to the Springfield elite, my entire focus is on representing the people of the 26th District and partnering with other like-minded legislators to bring common sense perspectives back to Springfield,” McConchie said.
Mazeski is a former financial adviser and self-described fiscal conservative who served on the Barrington Hills Village Board, plan commission and zoning board.
“I’m sick of the dysfunction in our state and find it unacceptable that a budget hasn’t been passed and that property taxes are so high. I’d like to use my experience in local government and independent way of thinking to loosen the gridlock in Illinois and get our state working forward,” Mazeski said.
Both candidates said they oppose any proposal to raise taxes on Illinois families and businesses, and they have varying ideas as to how to bring spending under control, with pension reform being a top priority.
About 25 percent of the state’s general fund now goes to pay the pensions and benefits of retired state employees. At $111 billion and climbing, the unfunded liability for the five state-run pension systems is the worst in the nation and has contributed significantly to the state’s worst-in-the-nation credit rating. An attempted fix that involved lessening benefits that already have been accrued was ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court.
McConchie, who turned down the state lawmaker pension, said the state needs to test the constitutionality of moving current employees into defined contribution plans going forward, while protecting the pension benefits they have accrued to date.
“I support any reforms that move government employees away from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan, such as those in the private sector. This is critical to improving the finances of the state and moving control of retirement funds away from the politicians and toward retirees. Pension reform would get us a long way to solving our current crisis,” McConchie said.
However, Mazeski called switching employees to a defined contribution plan a “poor fiscal move,” citing a 2015 study that questioned the benefits in other states where it had been done. She wants to try the plan floated by Senate President John Cullerton but rejected in favor of the reform the courts threw out.
“Any fiscal policy improvements for Illinois are essentially held hostage until we deal with this elephant in the room. We need speedy and sustainable reform that brings all parties to the table. Revisiting the compromise pension bill negotiated with labor unions that gives employees a choice between pay or [cost-of-living adjustment] increases is the most practical place to start,” Mazeski said.
McConchie supports the “Turnaround Agenda” of Gov. Bruce Rauner, especially tort and workers’ compensation reform, as well as allowing municipalities to be able to file for bankruptcy. Mazeski supports workers’ compensation reforms if negotiated between unions and legislative leaders.
“These reforms will help Illinois be more attractive to those businesses who would like to come set up shop in Illinois but are currently unwilling to because of our difficult regulatory environment,” McConchie said.
Both candidates support a freeze on property taxes, as well as redistricting reform and term limits, and attempting to pare down the state’s 7,000 units of local government. The sheer number of units of government in Illinois, far more than any other state, contributes to its high property taxes.
“Reducing the 7,000 units of government is paramount to getting our state fiscally back on track,” Mazeski said. “Cutting redundant government will reduce the tax burden on residents and increase efficiency. The consolidation of townships, school districts and other entities must be considered without reducing the level of services provided to residents.”
Visit NWHerald.com/election to read more about the candidates and issues in the Nov. 8 election.