The two candidates seeking election to the 49th District State Senate seat may be from opposite ends of the political spectrum, but on Thursday night, they appeared to agree on one thing.
“What we can’t have happen is for the state to put more responsibility on our local taxpayers,” Democrat Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant said of her opposition to a proposal that would shift the state’s nearly $90 billion pension liability onto local school districts.
Republican Garrett Peck, a Plainfield village trustee, also opposes the pension shift.
“I’m tired of watching Illinois bring itself to the verge of bankruptcy,” Peck said. “ … I’ve decided I want to reach out to residents and say, ‘What are your thoughts?’”
Peck went on the offensive, several times linking Bertino-Tarrant, who currently serves as the Will County Regional Superintendent of Schools, to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Referring again to the proposed pension shift, Peck said, “My opponent cannot say no to Mike Madigan when that vote comes up … I can.”
But when quizzed about her allegiance to Madigan, Bertino-Tarrant insisted she would represent her district, not the House speaker, in the State Senate.
“I’m an independent voice,” she said. “I live here and I have to come back to this community. My family built a name and I plan to protect that name.”
Bertino-Tarrant touted her 18 years of experience in education — including dealing with funding cuts.
“Almost every year I’ve been able to give money back to the county,” she said.
“Some think the only solution is to cut,” Bertino-Tarrant added. “We need to prioritize when making cuts.”
Bertino-Tarrant said she plans to stimulate the economy by focusing on small businesses, offering tax credits for hiring unemployed workers and providing job training to those who are out of work.
“I look forward to talking with individuals at their doors and listening to people,” she said. “We need to listen to our voters and I will do that.”
Meanwhile, Peck cited his experience as a small business owner, noting that he launched his first business eight years ago and his second three years ago.