Where 45th House candidates stand on pension fixes

How can Illinois address a staggering, roughly $111 billion shortfall in its pension system?

The candidates for the state's 45th House District seat offer sharply different fixes. The race pits Cynthia Borbas, a Carol Stream Democrat and political newcomer, against incumbent Christine Winger, a Wood Dale Republican seeking her second term representing the district.

Borbas said the state must avoid the mistakes of the past - "decades of bipartisan underfunding and borrowing" - that led to the pension crisis.

As the owner of an IT consulting business, the 38-year-old said growing the economy is the best way to address Illinois' fiscal problems. But Borbas said that growth doesn't happen overnight, and the state needs more revenue in the short term.

Borbas supports a so-called millionaires tax, but did not provide specifics, saying she would need to "look at the math" if elected in November.

House Democrats scrapped a graduated income tax proposal earlier this year. Some taxpayers who made more than $1 million annually would have paid a 9.75 percent income tax. Illinois currently charges a 3.75 percent, flat income tax.

"We cannot put our heads in the sand and think this problem is going to go away," Borbas said in an interview with the Daily Herald editorial board. "We have to obviously understand there's going to be additional funding needed.

"Where should that funding come from? It shouldn't come from working, retired, middle-class families. We already burden them enough."

Winger opposes increasing income taxes. She favors putting new public workers into a 401(k)-style retirement plan modeled "much more after the private sector."

"For new people coming into the system of an Illinois pension, whichever it may be ... there should truly be a defined contribution plan," Winger said.

She suggested business growth could help improve the state's "shameful" credit rating. A better score could open the door to a more favorable repayment plan if lawmakers chose to restructure the state's pension debt.

"The pension obligations, that schedule is certainly too steep for Illinois to meet under our current conditions," Winger said.

How can Illinois boost its economy?

"Let's get a balanced budget in place," Winger said. "I think that once we start running our state in a more organized fashion, I think that businesses start to look."

The 45th district includes parts of Addison, Bartlett, Bloomingdale, Itasca, Roselle, West Chicago and Wood Dale.

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