Name: Elaine Nekritz
Position sought: State Representative, 57th House District
Campaign contact information:
729 E. Dundee Rd.
Arlington Heights, IL
PO Box 2563
Birthdate: December 11, 1957
Nekritz and her husband Barry Nekritz had no children together, but Barry had two from a previous marriage. He also has four grandchildren.
Bachelors in Economics from Trinity University
J.D. from University of Michigan
State Representative for the 57th District of Illinois
Official name of your campaign committee:
Citizens for Elaine Nekritz
Previous Elected or Appointed Offices
- 57th House District – January 2003 to present
- Northfield Township Democratic Committeeman – March 1999 to July 2005
- Chair, Village of Northbrook Community Relations Commission – 1997 to 2000
Is there any additional experience you believe qualifies you for the position?
I have led by example in Springfield since the day I took office in 2003. That hard work, determination to put policy ahead of politics and commitment to my constituents and public service now have put me in a position of real leadership in the Illinois House. I’m entrusted by my colleagues to lead and provide solutions for the difficult issues we face such as pension reform, and I have a say at the table that my opponent would not. That is important for the 57th House District because it means my voice is heard and my constituents are well-represented as each critical issue is considered at the Capitol.
What would your priorities be if elected to this office?
We have to get our fiscal house in order in Springfield. It’s the issue that affects so many others, and is preventing us from being able to have better schools, stronger health care and more stable social services. So my commitment is to fight for long-lasting, meaningful spending restraint and pension reform for a better Illinois.
Constituent service is so important. The people of my district need representation that hears their problems and works to solve them. I have worked hard to connect with my district in the last 10 years , and now that I have new territory, I will work to be visible in these communities in northwest Cook County and help my constituents understand what’s happening in Springfield and how it affects them.
What are the most important issues facing your district and what would you do as a legislator to address them?
Economic development and job growth is critical. It’s why I’m focusing on improving infrastructure to build our economy, starting with our roads, bridges, rails and transit systems. When we invest in these critical components, we not only create jobs directly related to constructing and supporting these systems. We send a message to business that we know the tools you need to be successful, and we want to provide them for you. Freight rail infrastructure in particular is vital to our Chicagoland area, and it’s why I’ll be pushing for public-private partnerships in Springfield to provide the resources needed to move our infrastructure into the 21st century and beyond.
Fiscal accountability is vital. When we in Springfield get our spending under control, we can invest in schools, health care, social services and the economy. It’s why we need sustainable pension systems and prioritized spending on the fundamental obligations of state government. I will work every day to get us to that point.
We must remain vigilant in promoting safe, environmentally sound policies out of Springfield. I am a leading critic of concealed carry legislation in Illinois because we need smart policies on how to curb gun violence. I have pushed for safer commercial products for children and led rapid responses to ongoing flooding in my district. I will continue to oppose unsafe public safety policies and fight for environmentally smart proposals at the Capitol.
Illinois’ state government has a terrible reputation in terms of corruption. What would you do to change the culture of state government that has seen recent governors from both political parties convicted of felonies?
This is one area where I’m proud to tout my campaign theme and mantra – She’s Honestly Different. Since taking office in 2003, I have developed a reputation as an independent voice for reform, for effective government and for transparency and accountability.
I ran for office 10 years ago because I wanted to be a new kind of legislator, one who focused on making the best policy decisions and not pandering to the political whims of special interests. I have pushed repeatedly for stronger limits on campaign donations. In 2009, when we approved significant reform in the wake of the Blagojevich debacle, I thought we should go further and put stricter limits on the money political leaders can give their candidates. Unfortunately, I didn’t win that argument. But my push for stronger limits continues.
Really, this is an issue of personal accountability – to the voters, to the state and to each other as politicians and legislators. I served as the chair of the committee that started the expulsion process against Rep. Derrick Smith this year not because I was eager to vote him out, but because I wanted to send the strongest message possible that we will not stand for any hint of unethical behavior. It starts with committing to live and work at the highest of standards, and I’m proud to lead in that effort.
Education in Illinois is funded primarily through local property taxes. What changes, if any, would make to that funding system?
Education funding is such a difficult issue because it involves many competing interests and only so many dollars to meet the needs. But I truly believe we have an opportunity with pension reform to take a huge step in the right direction.
Once we as a state correct the great imbalance in our pension system, by ensuring we have a sustainable system and meet our obligations, we will open the door for a serious discussion about education funding. No longer will we have to take money away from programs and students to pump into the underfunded pension systems. We will have new dollars to prioritize, and we will need to bring everyone to the table to correct past inequities and provide a fair, reasonable and forward-thinking plan for helping students excel and become our next generation of leaders.
We will need to look seriously in that discussion at how we can reduce the over-reliance on property taxes that puts an undue burden on my constituents and others in the suburbs. It will take political courage, but I am up for the challenge.
Illinois recently passed a significant increase in its income tax, yet the state continues to run a deficit. What specifically should be done to reduce the deficit?
We have made real, significant progress on our state budget. When the income tax increase passed in January 2011, it was my idea to include a spending cap that took that money away if we spent more than we had coming in. The result is the last two budgets have been put together under very firm spending limits. After years of crushing deficits and delayed tough decisions, we ended the fiscal year on June 30, 2012, with a $400 million surplus. I’m proud to say I helped us get there.
In this past session, we approved more than $2 billion in Medicaid reforms. More work needs to be done, but we finally set down the right path of protecting the most vulnerable while ending waste and making the tough decisions for this vital health care system. Pension reform will save us tens of billions of dollars in the long run once it is approved. We should continue to measure our budget spending based on outcomes, setting goals and requiring accountability from programs and services to meet those goals within strict spending oversight. We also should close more state facilities, cut state boards and commissions and cut legislator pay and expenses.
Illinois’ unfunded pension liability is $83 billion. The state’s inability to address the issue recently led Moody’s to downgrade Illinois’ credit rating. What should be done to address the state’s rising pension obligations?
I have fought for years for a state pension system that, instead of being defined by crushing debt and unrealistic expectations, provides the right balance between deserved retirement security for state workers and teachers and allowing us to prioritize spending each year on the most important needs, such as education and human services. We are not there yet, but we will get there.
I spent countless hours in meetings with every stakeholder imaginable to reach agreement on this politically charged, financially enormous problem. As chair of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee and the House Democratic representative on the Governor’s Working Group on Pensions, I jumped at the chance to lead on this issue, and lead I did.
Several comprehensive legislative reform plans have come before our chamber. I supported each one. None were perfect, but we too often let the perfect stop progress in Springfield. I even supported the legislator-only reform plan in mid-August. I am committed to solving this problem now, and I will continue to push for the most meaningful reform we can achieve. I have supported reducing automatic cost of living increases, giving employees the choice between the current system and their ongoing COLA and health care plans and ensuring schools pay for the pensions of their teachers. I have supported various types of 401(k) style plans for new employees and changes to current employees’ benefits and remain open to those options in upcoming reform plans.
Why would you do a better job representing the district than your opponent? If you are running unopposed, please just share why you are qualified for the position.
I have seen great change in the past 10 years in Springfield – encouraging change. Yes, we have a long way to go. But the last two years in particular have shown me that when we are accountable to voters and face the reality of stark choices, we can accomplish important things.
I’m proud of my role in showing my colleagues there is a better way of doing business: saying no to political interests and legislative leaders; working within the system to change the way the system works for taxpayers; making tough decisions to produce a better tomorrow; and doing all of it with an uncompromising work ethic and to the highest of ethical standards.
As an emerging leader in the Illinois House, I have the respect and trust of my colleagues to pursue ideals that shake up the system but that produce the results we have longed for. I am in the best position to advocate for what’s right for our citizens and our state, not what will play best at the polls. I know the important issues in great detail – what solutions will work, and how to navigate the significant challenges that can stymie progress.
I would greatly appreciate the support of the voters of the 57th House District this November to get back to work in Springfield and get the job done.