Durkin faces Tea Party challenge in primary
Updated: March 29, 2012 4:04PM
Illinois has a spending problem, and Laura Reigle, a Tea Party-backed former Democratic committee woman who will face off against incumbent state Rep. Jim Durkin of Western Springs in the Republican primary for the Illinois 82nd House District, believes she can be part of the solution.
“Continuous tax increases are simply not the solution to getting Illinois out of debt,” said the Lemont resident.
She said she’s ready to cut expenses to help the state get back on its financial feet.
Durkin, who is assistant minority leader, said fixing the state’s financial condition also is at the top of his to-do list.
“To me, there is nothing else that is as important,” he said.
Durkin, who served on the state legislature from 1996 to 2002 and was re-appointed to fill the vacancy of Eileen Lyons in 2006, said he’s seeking another term in order to finish up an unfinished job.
“We have unfinished biz which I cannot pass on to another person,” said Durkin, who blames the Democratic majority for passing an income tax increase that has done nothing to solve the state’s biggest financial troubles.
“Pensions and Medicaid are swallowing up state government,” he said.
Reigle, who is backed by the Lemont Tea Party, has never held a public office. She lost in a 2011 10-way race for one of four seats on the Lemont-Bromberek Elementary School District 113A Board.
Other than her unsuccessful bid for the school board, Reigle’s most public role has been as a co-plaintiff in a protracted legal standoff with officials in her local school district. In August 2011, just months after their initial lawsuit was dismissed, Reigle and others re-filed their suit, which alleges fraud by current and former District 113A officials, and misuse of funds in excess of $12 million.
A former senior technician at Argonne National Laboratory, Reigle said she has become more politically involved since making the decision to stay home to raise her three children.
She said her experience as a Democratic committeeman worked to solidify her position as a Republican.
“It wasn’t what I believed in,” Reigle said.
She said she was encouraged by members of her community to vie for a spot on the November ballot.
“They want somebody to represent them,” she said.
Reigle said she believes Medicare reform is part of the solution to the state’s problems, but first, an audit must be done to see exactly where the money is going.
She also agrees that pensions are “part of the state’s downward spiral” and must be reformed, naming banked sick days and end-of-career salary spikes as things that need to be changed.
“Our pensions are keeping us from paying our bills,” said Durkin, who said salary increases alone add
a half billion dollars to pensions every year.
He is a sponsor of Senate Bill 512, which would create an option for state employees to transition to a 401K.
Had she been in office, Reigle said she would have voted in favor of Senate Bill 2073, an amendment to the Property Tax Code that called for a freeze of property taxes when a home’s value drops.
She said Durkin’s vote against the bill is proof that he “is for increasing taxes.”
Durkin called the bill “ a stunt” by Democrats that would do nothing to save taxpayers’ money.
“This is not the answer,” he said.
Among the victims of the recent economy is the state’s College Illinois program, which promised parents a way to lock in college costs years before their children enrolled in school.
While unfortunate, Reigle said investors in College Illinois knew the risk and should face the consequences.
While he stops short of endorsing a bailout, Durkin said he believes the state has some responsibility to the fund’s investors.
“I do believe that we do have an obligation to the contract holders to get this program back on track,” he said. “I was not sent to Springfield to walk away from problems and I’m not going to walk away from College Illinois.”
Reigle states that she believes in transparency in government, term limits, the right to life, the right to carry concealed weapons and strict laws against illegal immigration. Her website characterizes her as a “real Republican,” and labels Durkin a “RINO,” Republican in Name Only.
Considered a fiscal conservative and a social moderate, Durkin is a member the John Marshall Law School Board of Trustees and the Chicago Bar Association Board of Managers, and sits on the board of advisers for the Giant Steps Autism School and Misericordia.