Democratic state House candidate Joyce Mason said Illinois’ infamous budget impasse — and the financial havoc it caused from 2015 to 2017 — inspired her to run for the General Assembly.

The legislator Mason wants to unseat, Republican Sheri Jesiel of Winthrop Harbor, said she’s seeking re-election because her fellow lawmakers have created a system that requires reform.

Jesiel and Mason will face off for the 61st House District seat in the Nov. 6 election. They discussed their motivations for running and other issues Wednesday in a joint interview at the Daily Herald headquarters.

Illinois went more than two years without a full budget because of a stalemate between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly. The resulting fiscal crisis badly damaged the state’s credit rating and caused financial problems for agencies that receive state funds.

Mason said the crisis nearly forced A Safe Place, a Lake County domestic violence organization for which she serves on the board of directors, to close.

“(It) really hurt services that our community needed,” said Mason, a business consultant and member of the Woodland School District 50 board.

Mason was especially critical of the political standoff that contributed to the budget crisis. “We’ve become so partisan,” she said. “Nobody (was) working together and nobody was voting in our district’s best interests.”

When asked to clarify that comment, Mason said she favored several pieces of legislation Jesiel opposed, including ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and education funding reforms.

In response, Jesiel said she voted against most of the legislation Mason mentioned because she disagreed with the policies or because she supported different bills on the same topics.

Jesiel was appointed to fill a vacant seat in 2014, won election later that year and now is running for her third full term.

She said she’s disappointed that, in her four years in office, there’s been little compromise and little accomplished when it comes to changing the “dysfunctional system” in Springfield.

“We have nibbled around the edges,” Jesiel said. “The state isn’t anywhere near being on a path for fiscal health (or) for stability.”

Jesiel said lawmakers need to create a friendlier climate for businesses by reducing property taxes and eliminating some regulations. She also said worker compensation laws should be changed to reduce the number of people deemed to be catastrophically disabled, among other changes.

The 61st District includes much of northern Lake County.

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September 27, 2018 at 08:58AM