House District 49, 50 candidates talk taxes, helping small businesses
Candidates seeking to represent state House districts 49 and 50 weighed in on rising property taxes and bailing out small businesses struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic during a recent Daily Herald Editorial Board interview.
Democrat Maura Hirschauer of Batavia and Republican North Aurora Trustee Laura Curtis are vying for the 49th District seat on Nov. 3. Incumbent Republican state Rep. Keith Wheeler of Oswego faces a challenge from Democrat Kate Monteleone in the 50th District.
The candidates agree property tax relief is needed, but disagree whether the state's proposed graduated income tax hike amendment will help.
Illinois has had a flat income tax rate -- currently 4.95% for individuals regardless of income level -- since 1969. A constitutional amendment on the Nov. 3 ballot removes the flat-tax and modifies the corporate rate limit to not exceed the highest individual rate by more than 60%.
"I don't agree with changing the constitution to allow for a Fair Tax ... but I think the amendment we need is for pension reform," said Curtis, who is pro-business. "We've got the worst-funded pension system in the country that also is contributing to our overinflated property taxes."
Curtis said the state needs to step up and pay its fair share of funding for schools and not burden homeowners, especially seniors.
Hirschauer, a former elementary school teacher, said aside from the tax burden, families also are struggling with children who are learning remotely and lack of access to affordable, safe child care to be able to get back to work.
"We must address testing and contact tracing so our schools can safely open," Hirschauer said. "Our teachers are not babysitters. They should not be the front lines of defense against this COVID-19 epidemic."
Wheeler, who is running for his fourth term, said taxes and corruption in Springfield are the biggest concerns for district voters. Pension and education reform are key to lowering property taxes, he added.
"We need to clean up our processes in Springfield, make it so that people have more faith in the government ... that represents them in the state House, the state Senate and the governor's office and all across our entire political spectrum," he said.
Monteleone, a nonprofit consultant from Campton Township, said adopting the Fair Tax amendment is the way to reduce property taxes.
The graduated income tax proposal aims to reduce taxes for 97% of Illinoisans and help the state plug a more than $6 billion deficit this year.
"The Fair Tax, if adopted as stated in the spring, should generate about $3 billion," Monteleone said. "That would be two budget cycles of revenue to address the added COVID expenses (without added federal support)."
Monteleone believes the tax would benefit a majority of small businesses who have had problems getting federal COVID-19 relief funds. "Small mom and pop" businesses have been excluded from the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program because they operate on a cash basis, she added.
Wheeler said small business owners statewide protested the governor's emergency rule that would potentially fine and jail those who don't follow COVID-19 health and safety mandates.
"I pushed back very hard on that and reached across the aisle and collaborated with some of my Democrat members on (the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules) to present a more unified front that the government needs to rethink this process," Wheeler said. "There's a more clever approach that delivered a better rule, which actually happened in August."
A real estate appraiser, Curtis called for a reduction in "burdensome regulation" saying there is no economic recovery without safely reopening businesses. She supports creating a task force to evaluate rules impeding reopening.
Hirschauer said the economy cannot rebound until the pandemic is mitigated.
"We need to make sure that we have funding for PPE (personal protective equipment) and testing and contact tracing, and then our small businesses can get back to what they do best, serving our communities, she said.
The 49th District encompasses parts of Aurora, Bartlett, Batavia, Elgin, Geneva, Naperville, North Aurora, South Elgin, St. Charles, Warrenville, Wayne, and West Chicago. District 50 takes in all or parts of Aurora, Batavia, Big Rock, Campton Hills, Elburn, Geneva, Lily Lake, Montgomery, North Aurora, Oswego, Plano, Prestbury, St. Charles, Sugar Grove, and Yorkville.