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Candidates for Illinois state representative open up ahead of election

Candidates for Illinois state representative took time to weigh in on the issues ahead of the Nov. 6 election to help give voters a chance to make an informed decision.

In the race for the 86thDistrict seat are Republican candidate Rick Laib and incumbent Democrat Lawrence “Larry” Walsh, Jr.

As for the 98thDistrict, those vying for votes are Republican nominee Alyssia Benford and incumbent Democrat Natalie Manley.

Among the issues candidates discussed were property tax relief and the State of Illinois’ pension system.

“The most pressing issue is the property taxes primarily, of course, because of the lack of education funding,” Benford said. “It’s impact the home values. We have a lot of foreclosures in our district, but we do have a lot of homeowners who have had difficulty selling their homes because of the property taxes.”

Benford said one obstacle to creating property tax relief is the state of Illinois’ pensions.

At a recent forum held in Joliet, Benford asserted that, if elected, she will not opt in to take part in the system. Benford’s remark at the time drew some praise from members of the audience.

“I do still stand by that,” Benford said. “I will not accept a state pension. The last study I saw showed that a current state representative contributes about $180,000 into pension system. They receive a total of $2 million over their lifetime, based on the actuarial study. If they’re contributing $180,000, obviously we know the rate of return is not going to [even out.] The taxpayers are paying for that.”

Benford suggested the more lawmakers are encouraged not to participate, the more money the State of Illinois will have to spend.

Manley referred to Benford’s idea as being “a disingenuous, heroic measure” and said that opting out of the pension plan leaves lawmakers to participate in a defined benefit plan, which is oftentimes more costly in the long run.

Last year, lawmakers in Springfield considered enacting legislation to eliminate new member eligibility to the General Assembly’s retirement system, but no law is currently on the books.

Manley touted her record of backing a bill that, if passed, would introduce a property tax freeze to help relieve the burden on taxpayers.

“Freezing property taxes would compel those local governments that make up the property tax bill to come to the table and actually have discussion on how we can do this,” Manley said. “This is a local government problem. I want the local governments to sit down with the state to figure it out.”

A property tax freeze is a measure that many school boards in the area have called into question.

Manley disputed the concern, saying, the state gains nothing by implementing the measure.

“The state has nothing to do with property taxes other than … the fact the state is not funding the schools to the level it should be,” she said.

Laib acknowledged that property tax relief is an issue of note for many voters.

“I know it’s going one direction, and that’s up,” he said. “We are evacuating the state of Illinois. People cannot afford to stay here. There’s only one way that we are finding to raise money, and that is to raise taxes. … We cannot just keep raising taxes.”

Laib is an employee of the Will County Sheriff’s Office. This election season is Laib’s first time running for public office.

“There’s no reason we can’t live within our means,” he said of the state's funding woes. “If we can’t live within our means at a lower level, I don’t see how we can live within our means at a higher level.”

Laib suggested that one way to raise the necessary revenue in the long term is to put an end to abortions.

“35,000 babies we’re killing every year,” Laib said. “If those people are allowed to develop and grow up and get jobs, they’d be contributing to the economy.”

When asked what is his view on lawmakers opting in to the state pension system, Laib said he doesn’t need a pension, nor would he sign up for one, if he were elected.

Walsh shared a differing view.

“The gist of it is there’s a lot of rich people, who want to control government, that don’t need pensions because they’ve got outside income,” he said. “For the average guy to get involved in politics and be a part of decision-making that affects 12.5 million people in the state, there’s got to be some income security for them.”

Much like Manley, Walsh has opted in to participate in the state's pension system.

Walsh said he sees the issue with property taxes as a local issue, not a state problem.

“If your local school board sees that they have additional state dollars coming in, they don’t have to levy as much,” he said.

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