The recent state income tax hike is scheduled to sunset on Jan. 1, 2015, but one candidate in the Illinois 57th House District race would like to repeal it even sooner.
Republican Jonathan Greenberg of Northbrook, the challenger in the race, said the income tax hike was an insult to taxpayers and should never have been approved.
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"We should repeal it and start over," he said.
His opponent, state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Democrat from Northbrook, takes a different view. She would like to see how the state is doing economically at the time of the sunset date before making a decision.
"It's two years away. I'd like to see where we are with the economy. I'd like to see where we are with making the necessary cuts, see if we can let it sunset without taking any further action," she said.
The income tax hike was one of the economic issues Greenberg and Nekritz discussed during a meeting at the Daily Herald. Greenberg, an executive with a not-for-profit organization, is seeking the legislative seat Nekritz has held for the last 10 years. The election is Nov. 6.
Nekritz supported the income tax hike in 2011, saying the state needed to pair new revenues with spending cuts to right its financial ship. She said letting the tax hike sunset in 2015 "would be my goal."
The income tax hike generates roughly $7 billion in revenue. Greenberg said the state could make that up by reforming its pension systems and rolling back recent expansion of Medicaid, among other measures.
"You'll have to make substantial cuts to Medicaid, which shouldn't have been expanded the way it was over the past 10 years," he said, adding that pensions and Medicaid costs are two of the biggest contributors to the state's poor fiscal condition.
Nekritz, who sits on Gov. Pat Quinn's pension reform panel, said she is unconvinced that $7 billion could be made up even with substantial reform of the pension system and other cuts.
"I don't think it's realistic," she said. "I don't know how you just cut $7 billion out of the budget."
Another topic the candidates discussed was the practice of giving tax credits to businesses to keep them from fleeing the state. Nekritz said she thinks such tax credits are "part of our tool kit for economic development." But she thinks they should be handled by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, not the General Assembly.
Nekritz voted against the tax credits recently given to Hoffman Estates-based Sears and the CME Group.
"I didn't think those companies were the right targets, not when our budget situation was so tenuous," she said. "I didn't believe CME was going to move to Indianapolis, and I don't think Sears needed those incentives to stay."
Greenberg agreed that the legislature should not be involved in the tax credits, which in his view makes the process political. He said a company's potential for growth should be a key qualifier.
"A company should only qualify for incentives if they're going to grow. We should never be in a position of doing what we did with Sears, which was give them a tax credit and have them turn around and fire Illinois workers," alluding to the fact that Sears laid off 100 employees after receiving the benefit.
The 57th District includes much of Buffalo Grove and Northbrook and parts of adjacent communities.