Senate 25th District candidates debate ethics, taxes
Candidates vying for the state Senate 25th District seat discussed a host of issues, including Springfield ethics reform, the state's graduated income tax proposal and its response to helping small businesses weather the pandemic, during a recent Daily Herald Editorial Board interview.
Republican Jeanette Ward faces Democrat Karina Villa, currently the state representative for the 49th House District, on Nov. 3.
The winner will replace outgoing Republican state Sen. Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Lauren Underwood of Naperville in the race for the 14th Congressional District.
Ward, of West Chicago, served one term on the Elgin Area School District U-46 school board and lost a reelection bid in April 2019.
She said Senate 25th District voters are concerned about corruption in Springfield, and in light of the recent ComEd bribery scandal, "ethics reform is sorely needed."
In an alleged bribery scheme involving Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, ComEd has agreed to pay a $200 million fine as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors to avoid criminal liability and defer prosecution.
"That costs the taxpayer in higher electric rates and no-show jobs for Democrat Party workers, and it's really unfair," Ward said.
Villa, of West Chicago, didn't respond to Ward's criticism for taking campaign contributions from Madigan and not calling for his resignation since the bribery allegation surfaced. She has supported and co-sponsored House ethics reform legislation to amend the Lobbyist Registration Act, saying in a candidate questionnaire, "when public trust has been damaged by even the perception of impropriety at any level of government, it is something that needs to be dealt with seriously."
Ward and Villa disagree whether the state's graduated income tax proposal will reduce taxes for 97% of Illinoisans.
Ward said voters won't approve the Fair Tax in November because "it gives the legislature a blank check to raise taxes on everyone."
Villa said the rising cost of living for working and middle class families, including the cost of health care, medication, lack of low-income housing and property taxes, is the number-one issue for the state and district constituents.
A former school social worker and West Chicago District 33 school board member, Villa said more equitable school funding is one way the state can help keep taxes down. She added, school districts that levy the maximum allowed in property taxes yearly, despite having money in the bank and being fully funded by the state, should take a hard look at what's happening in their communities.
"What is within our control is making sure that those lower-income school districts like (Elgin Area School District) U-46, like West Chicago ... are getting the funding that they need," Villa said. "So eventually ... those of us who are taxpayers in those areas, once those schools are fully funded, can say to our school boards we can't continue to have these levies at the highest amount year after year."
Villa, who grew up working in her parents' grocery store from the age of 13 until 25, supports the state providing financial aid to mom and pop businesses with less than 50 employees, saying they "are the backbone of America."
"As a state representative, one of the things that was most critical to me was making sure that those small businesses obtained timely, relevant, user-friendly information for applying to grants or loans," she said.
Ward criticized state lawmakers for not consulting with small businesses before making decisions affecting their reopening amid the pandemic.
"Small businesses should have had a say, and I don't think we should have put undue burdens on them like fining them for lack of compliance if their folks don't wear a mask," Ward said. "The last thing we need to do is impose penalties on small businesses."
The 25th District includes portions of Aurora, Bartlett, Batavia, Campton Hills, Elburn, Geneva, Montgomery, Naperville, North Aurora, Oswego, Plano, South Elgin, St. Charles, Sugar Grove, Warrenville, Wayne, West Chicago and Yorkville.