CHICAGO — Illinois voters go to the polls tomorrow to make their Democratic and Republican primary picks for the November general election for all statewide offices and the Cook County Board presidency.
In the governor’s race, the state’s fiscal turmoil has taken center stage. On the Democratic side, Gov. Pat Quinn faces Comptroller Dan Hynes. In the Republican field, six candidates are vying for the nod to run in November.
They include former Attorney General Jim Ryan, former state GOP chairman Andy McKenna, state Sen. Kirk Dilliard, state Sen. Bill Brady, businessman Adam Andrzejewski, and political consultant Dan Proft.
The state faces a combined deficit in fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011 of at least $12 billion due to ongoing economic troubles, faltering revenue collections, and the use of one-time measures to balance the fiscal 2010 budget last June.
Illinois has suffered several rounds of downgrades. Fitch Ratings assigns an A to the state’s $22.4 billion of general obligation bonds and has it on negative watch. Moody’s Investors Service rates the state A2 and Standard & Poor’s rates it A-plus, both with negative outlooks.
Quinn last year proposed a 50% increase in the state’s income tax rate, but lawmakers refused. He has called for restructuring taxes, but has not provided details of any new proposal.
Hynes has said he would press for a graduated tax structure, with top earners paying more.
Republicans oppose any major tax increases. Fiscal analysts have warned that tax increases or cuts alone likely would not solve the state’s structural budget problems.
The fate of a year-old, unpopular sales tax increase that put Chicago’s tax rate at among the highest in the nation could be decided Tuesday in the race for Cook County Board president.
Current President Todd Stroger — who has been board president since 2006, and is son of the late, long-time President John Stroger — faces three Democratic opponents in Tuesday’s race.
All opponents have made the repeal of Stroger’s 1% sales tax increase a centerpiece of their campaigns.
On the Democratic side, Chicago Ald. Toni Preckwinkle 4th — whose ward includes Obama’s home in Hyde Park — is the frontrunner, according to recent polls. She is followed by Metropolitan Water Reclamation District president Terrence O’Brien and Circuit Court clerk Dorothy Brown. Stroger came in last place, with 11% of the vote.
On the Republican side, Chicago police lieutenant John Garrido faces off with Roger Keats. It has been more than
40 years since a Republican headed up the county board.
All candidates except Stroger have said they would trim the county’s $3 billion budget to make up for the roughly $200 million in revenue lost by the tax repeal.
Stroger, who imposed the hike in 2008, has argued the new money is needed to fund the county’s massive public health system and warned that a rollback would lead to draconian service cuts and the closing of major health care facilities.
Commissioners on the 17-member county board — most of whom also face opponents in tomorrow’s race — voted late last year to repeal half of the increase. The cut will take effect in July, dropping Chicago’s tax rate to 9.75% from 10.25%.
In Lake County, just north of Chicago, voters face a $174 million bond referendum that would finance major upgrades to New Trier Township High School, one of the top public schools in the state.
Opponents believe the upgrades are too costly, but supporters counter that the aging campus needs classroom upgrades, a new cafeteria, library, field house, and other improvements that include making all of the campus wheelchair accessible.
Ohio will hold a special election Tuesday that will feature a number of county-based bond and tax proposals as well as local candidate races.
Clark County will ask voters to approve a 0.25% income tax increase for the next 37 years that will back a $66 million bond issue.
Licking County is seeking voter permission to impose a 1% income tax hike for the next three years to finance operations at the county school district.
Lorain County is proposing borrowing $11 million to finance public library improvements, and Darke County is asking voters to approve a $25 million issue. The primary in statewide races is May 4. Gov. Ted Strickland is seeking re-election.
Nebraska’s primary will be held May 11, when voters statewide will be asked to decide on a constitutional amendment that will allow local governments to issue revenue bonds on behalf of nonprofit organizations.
Michigan voters will head to the polls Feb. 23 for county-wide elections and to weigh in on several school district bond proposals. The statewide primary is Aug. 3. Gov. Jennifer Granholm has hit state term limits and cannot seek re-election.
Iowa voters will hold its primary in the governor’s race on June 8. Wisconsin and Minnesota’s primary, in which statewide offices are up for election, is Sept. 14. Both Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty are not seek re-election. Iowa Gov. Chet Culver is running for a second term.