49th District hopefuls Schmitz, Barconi diverge on pension reform

Monday, September 27, 2010

When Gov. Pat Quinn signed pension reform into law in April, legal experts split into two camps: those who felt lawmakers had done the best they could and others who felt legislators could pursue further reforms.

That division is reflected in the state House race in the 49th District, in which Republican Tim Schmitz faces Democratic challenger Jennifer Barconi.

Schmitz, a Batavia resident who has served in the state House for 11 years, supported the recent reforms for state employees but said this week that more needs to be done. In particular, Schmitz supports standardized pension rules for all state workers to discourage groups from seeking bigger pensions based on what another group is getting.

"I think it was a good start," Schmitz said. "I'm not sure we're done with it."

Barconi, a business owner from South Elgin, similarly called the recent reform an "important and necessary step." But she questions the wisdom of trying to curb pensions further for current employees.

"It would precipitate a lengthy and expensive court battle that would take several years to resolve," Barconi said. "We need to consider additional possibilities to balance the books."

Barconi supports several measures contained in a $1.3 billion spending reduction package presented by 10 Democratic state lawmakers. The proposals include eliminating redundancies between the comptroller's and treasurer's offices, cutting state agency budgets by 5 percent and renegotiating state contracts.

Schmitz supports zero-based budgeting, which would require every agency each year to justify its funding, and a forensic audit of the state's budget. In doing so, he is on the same page as the House Republican leadership, GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bill Brady and suburban lawmakers such as Republican state Rep. Mike Tryon of Elgin and Democrat Reps, Jack Franks of Woodstock and Keith Farnham of Elgin.

Schmitz and Barconi both agree that raising taxes is not the solution to Illinois' $13 billion budget deficit.

The 49th District includes all or parts of Algonquin, West Dundee, Elgin, South Elgin, St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, Huntley and Crystal Lake.