Smith receives strong endorsement from Chicago Tribune
Michelle Smith, the Republican challenger for the District 49 state Senate seat, was recently endorsed by the Chicago Tribune editorial board, which praised her efforts to keep the tax levy in Plainfield steady while building a budget for the school district.
The editorial board had no good words for incumbent state Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood). It pointed out her inability to face down House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) and vote "no" on his unbalanced budget in late May.
"On the school board, Smith has tried to keep the property tax levy steady while dealing with unpredictability from the state," the Chicago Tribune said. "'Attempting to build a budget every year is like throwing darts blindfolded.'"
Incumbent Bertino-Tarrant should understand the pressure the state's financial chaos creates in her district — yet she couldn't bring herself to vote against House Speaker Michael Madigan's (D-Chicago) budget, which was $7 billion out of balance. She voted 'present.' Votes like that are the reason the state's finances are a disaster. Smith is strongly endorsed."
The budget mentioned in the Tribune endorsement is SB 2048, which was presented to the Illinois House by Madigan on May 25. The more than $40 billion budget bill listed expenditures of $7 billion over the anticipated expenditures for FY 2017.
While the bill passed the House in a 63-53 vote, the Senate balked at the deficit and voted it down in a 17-31 bipartisan effort. The Senate prepared an education funding bill, but it was turned down by the House. The General Assembly adjourned without passing a budget.
If Madigan's budget had passed, the legislature would have been forced to increase taxes to ensure the state's bills were paid. As it is, the state is rapidly approaching an estimated $14 billion unpaid bill backlog. State Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger has warned that unless the unpaid bills are addressed soon, income taxes may rise to 8 percent to cover the state's expenses.
While the July 1 deadline approached, it appeared that little was happening in the General Assembly. The promised budget workshops, scheduled for Wednesdays, were cancelled every week. In the last week of June, there was a flurry of activity as a temporary "stopgap" budget was negotiated, passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
The six-month budget addressed education funding and essential services, including social services, road projects and veterans services. It was only a temporary solution that allowed schools to open in fall and critical services to continue uninterrupted. When the legislature meets again after the election, the full budget will be back on the agenda.
Smith took to social media in early September to blast her opponent's support of Madigan's unbalanced budgets.
"Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant is a Madigan crony who toes the lines. ... She supports his unbalanced budgets that require massive tax hikes [from] working families. The state needs real reform to help the people of the 49th District, but Bertino-Tarrant is more concerned about keeping her job than she is about serving her constituents."
Smith brings her experience as Plainfield School District 202 board president to the election. She has experience in building budgets without full information or funding from the state. While constructing a balanced budget for the school district, she has also worked to prevent increases in property taxes. The state budget, education, job creation, property taxes and term limits are among her primary concerns in her campaign.
Smith and Bertino-Tarrant will face off in the Nov. 8 general election. Both candidates ran unopposed in their respective primaries.