Elaine Nekritz: Candidate Profile

57th District Representative (Democrat)

Updated 9/21/2012 4:30 PM
  • Elaine Nekritz, running for 57th District Representative

    Elaine Nekritz, running for 57th District Representative



Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A



City: Northbrook

Website: www.nekritznow.com/

Office sought: 57th District Representative

Age: 54

Family: Married to Barry. Barry has two married sons and we have four grandchildren.

Occupation: Full time state representative.

Education: Bachelors degree in Economics, Trinity University, San Antonio, TX, 1979 JD, University of Michigan, 1982

Civic involvement: National Council of Jewish Women-Chicago North Shore Section (Former State Public Affairs Chair and Vice President) Hadassah Former Chair,Village of Northbrook Community Relations Commission ? Glenview Values Project Active Transportation Alliance (formerly Chicagoland Bicycle Federation) ? Former Board member

Elected offices held: State Representative 57th House District ? January, 2003 to present Northfield Township Democratic Committeeman ? March, 1999 to July 2005

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

An independent, strong vision for Illinois. I?ve worked hard for my constituents and for all of Illinois in the 10 years I?ve served in the General Assembly. We?ve made some critical progress. But there?s so much more to be done. I want to go back to continue fighting for the right priorities and working to put the Legislature?s keen focus on improving this great state.

Key Issue 2

Fiscal responsibility. We will never be able to fix our serious budget problems in Illinois if we don?t take them head on. It?s why I jumped into significant budget cutting several years ago when many of my colleagues would not, and it?s why I?m taking a very public leadership role to ensure our pension debt doesn?t trigger a financial meltdown. We have taken positive steps in the past two years. If I?m sent back to Springfield, I will continue working to get our spending under control and our finances where they need to be.

Key Issue 3

Making Springfield work for us. I?ve fought ever since taking in office in 2003 for a more open, ethical and accountable state government. We must push ourselves to gain more public trust and prove that we put the people?s needs first. It?s why I stood up to leadership in 2009 and said our process doesn?t work for the right priorities. Real change came from that, and I?ll keep working within the system to put Illinoisans first.

Questions & Answers

How would you fix the state's pension gap? Should pension costs be shifted to suburban school districts? Why or why not? Should this issue be voted on in a lame-duck session? Why or why not? How can partisan gridlock be eased to solve the crisis?

I have fought for years for a state pension system that, instead of being defined by crushing debt and unrealistic expectations, provides the right balance between deserved retirement security for state workers and teachers and allowing us to prioritize spending each year on the most important needs, such as education and human services. We are not there yet, but we will get there. I spent countless hours in meetings with every stakeholder imaginable to reach agreement on this politically charged, financially enormous problem. As chair of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee and the House Democratic representative on the Governor?s Working Group on Pensions, I jumped at the chance to lead on this issue, and lead I did. Several comprehensive legislative reform plans have come before our chamber. I supported each one. None were perfect, but we too often let the perfect stop progress in Springfield. I even supported the legislator-only reform plan earlier this month. I am committed to solving this problem now, just as your editorial board has called for time and time again, and I will continue to push for the most meaningful reform we can achieve. I have supported reducing automatic cost of living increases, giving employees the choice between the current system and their ongoing COLA and health care plans and ensuring schools pay for the pensions of their teachers. I have supported various types of 401(k) style plans and changes to current employees? benefits and remain open to those options in upcoming reform plans. We should not worry about whether this issue will be voted on in a lame-duck session. We should worry about making sure we support reform that will pull us back from the edge of the fiscal abyss. It will take constructive meetings with the governor and legislative leaders and every stakeholder - putting politics aside - for the gridlock to end. So far, we haven?t had that, and it?s why we?re still struggling for a solution.

How, specifically, would you cut the budget? What does Illinois need to do to fix its status as a "deadbeat state?" How will you vote on future gambling bills? What is your view of slots at racetracks? Casino expansion?

In Springfield, we?ve been forced to put very high spending priorities against each other ? pension payments, health care increases, bill backlogs among them. But the result has been spending discipline in the form of very specific cuts that I not only have supported, but that I urged my colleagues to support as well. I have voted for facility closures, in order to better use those resources on community-based services. I would support other closures if they would meet that goal. I have supported real cuts to the Medicaid program, both to eliminate waste and fraud and reduce and eliminate services ? necessary moves to get our fiscal house in order. I also supported requiring state retirees to contribute financially to the cost of their health coverage. I support eliminating salaries for part-time state boards and commissions to save millions of dollars a year. I have supported and will continue to push for legislators leading by example in cutting our pay and reducing our daily reimbursements and mileage expenses. But our most important budget cutting will come through pension reform, asking state workers to consider taking smaller cost-of-living payments and paying more for health care if they want to keep the benefits they have now. All of these moves will send the signal that Illinois will no longer be a ?deadbeat state.? As we re-prioritize our spending, then we can pay our bills on time and commit to taxpayers that we will meet our obligations ? and not settle for anything less. I have opposed gambling expansion measures in the past because I do not believe we should turn to gambling to give us an excuse to avoid being fiscally responsible. But I will not rule out supporting gambling expansion in the future, and I will evaluate each proposal on its own merits.

What can you do specifically to help the economy in your district? How can you help create jobs in your district and statewide? What is your view of the tax breaks granted to companies like Motorola Mobility, Navistar and Sears?

I have been a vocal advocate for creating economic benefits for my district and our state through infrastructure improvements. I believe that when we invest in our roads, bridges, rails and transit systems, we not only create jobs and send money throughout our economy, but we encourage businesses to invest in our communities in return. There?s a reason both Warren Buffett and Bill Gates heavily invest in freight rail. Illinois is the only state in the nation where all seven Class I freight railroads pass through, and six of those cross Chicagoland. Unfortunately, the railroads don?t have the resources to build a system to deal with growing demand. I have led discussions in the Illinois House for the CREATE program ? Chicago Regional Environmental and Transportation Efficiency ? a public/private partnership aimed at reducing gridlock in the regional freight rail system. We need sustained funding, including federal aid, to make this program work and put our state on the forefront of the 21st century rail revolution. I support extending Route 53 in Lake County to help ease the unacceptable gridlock in the northern suburbs of Cook County. We must push ahead with the solutions outlined by the Illinois Route 53/120 Blue Ribbon Advisory Council this spring, to reflect current thinking in engineering and balance adequate traffic flow with environmental sensibility. I will continue to fight for legislation creating public-private partnerships to help meet the significant funding challenges on this project. Ask the businesses in my district and around the state what they want to grow, and you?ll hear they want a stable, predictable economic environment. We can only do that with a state budget that provides that stability and predictability. I have led the push for progress by better aligning our spending with our revenues. But we must continue to control spending, pay down our huge backlog of bills and, most importantly, pull ourselves out of a mountain of pension debt. I agree with the business community that Illinois? EDGE tax credits can be very effective in job retention and creation. They are key economic development tools and make us more competitive. But they cannot be used as political tools. I opposed the Sears/CME legislation because I could not justify voting for additional tax credits when our budget situation was so unstable.

Do you favor limiting how much money party leaders can give candidates during an election? If elected, do you plan to vote for the current leader of your caucus? Why or why not? Do you support or oppose campaign contribution limits? Please explain.

I ran for office 10 years ago because I wanted to be a new kind of legislator, one who focused on making the best policy decisions and not pandering to the political whims of special interests. I have pushed repeatedly for stronger limits on campaign donations. In 2009, when we approved significant reform in the wake of the Blagojevich debacle, I thought we should go further and put stricter limits on the money political leaders can give their candidates. Unfortunately, I didn?t win that argument. But my push for stronger limits continues. If there is a race for caucus leader, I would evaluate the candidates and cast my vote for the individual who I believe is best able to lead and address problems facing the State of Illinois. I have worked hard to establish credibility as a respected, independent leader and I can work with members of my caucus, as well as across the aisle, to build consensus. I can also work within the system to change the system and bring better results as I continue to build that credibility and a track record of success.

Should gay marriage be legalized in Illinois? Should it be voted on in a lame-duck session as civil unions were? Should Illinois define life as beginning at conception? How would you vote on a concealed carry plan? Should the death penalty return?

My viewpoints on these social issues directly reflect the values of the 57th House district, and come from my daily interactions with constituents. I supported state recognition of civil unions. I support the rights and restrictions on abortion set forth in Roe v. Wade. I support a ban on assault weapons similar to the federal ban previously in effect and I oppose attempts to permit the carrying of concealed weapons. However, I would very much like to see legislative efforts move beyond guns and focus on reducing gun violence. I voted to end the death penalty in Illinois because of the serious flaws in the system and would not support its return.