How 77th House candidates differ on state finances

Addison Democrat Kathleen Willis calls the six-month stopgap budget she supported in the Illinois House a Band-Aid that "nobody liked."

"Whether you were a Democrat or a Republican, you were hitting your head against the wall saying, 'Something's got to give,'" Willis said of the deal approved last June by lawmakers.

Avoiding another Band-Aid on the state's budget woes will take a mix of spending cuts and increasing revenue, Willis said.

The 54-year-old is seeking her third term representing the state's 77th House District. Her challenger, Anthony Airdo, a Melrose Park Republican, disagrees with her position and puts the blame on both parties for a historic budget impasse.

Willis, a full-time lawmaker and former Addison Elementary District 4 school board member, calls for finding efficiencies in Illinois government by combining the offices of state comptroller and treasurer, scrapping the office of lieutenant governor and eliminating the state's air fleet and some of its car fleet. On the revenue side, she supports a so-called millionaires tax, a proposal floated earlier this year by House Democrats.

When asked who's at fault for the stalemate, Willis said "it's a matter of compromise needs to be done." She acknowledged "a trust factor" with Gov. Bruce Rauner, who she said is looking at the budget "in extreme."

"You can't just cut your way to a balanced budget," she said. "And you can't just tax your way to a balanced budget. There has to be a combination of both."

Airdo, a 54-year-old sales director at a heating and air conditioning business, has never held political office and ran unopposed in the GOP primary after the Illinois State Board of Elections removed Republican Lisa Wesa from the ballot.

Airdo said he's developed negotiating skills in his job that he would put to use toward bridging divisions in Springfield.

"I'm motivated by being very energetic, not quitting, trying to finish a job that I start," he said.

Airdo said Illinois legislators shouldn't get a paycheck because they didn't do their job to come up with a budget. He also favored shrinking state government in a recent interview with the Daily Herald editorial board, but said he would have to evaluate areas of spending excesses if elected in November.

"We have to stop taxing people to death," Airdo said. "I mean, everybody wants to keep taxing, but we have to keep the companies here, make it a little more difficult for them to leave."

The 77th District includes parts of Addison, Bensenville, Franklin Park and Wood Dale.

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