MACOMB — With the 2020 general election days away, the two candidates vying for the Illinois House’s 93rd District seat offered their takes on the state’s COVID-19 response as well as the perks and drawbacks of the graduated income tax.

Rep. Norine Hammond, R-Macomb, who is seeking her sixth term in the Illinois House, said more can be done for the hospitality industry and that it’s not fair that bars and restaurants are being singled out in the mitigation strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“The restaurants, the bars, the catering and certainly the hotels are suffering, and their struggles are significant,” Hammond said. “There has been some funding available to help get them through this, but I would say that it is certainly not enough, and there needs to be more made available to folks and not only that but just because you’ve received some assistance once doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to qualify in the future.”

Democrat Scott Stoll said there always has to be a balance between make sure the state can keep the economy up and running and keeping citizens safe. He added that addressing the pandemic regionally is important.

“I think the most important part is making sure that we’re providing every bit of safety measures that we can, whether it be PPE or hand sanitizer and things like that,” Stoll said.

But the economic downturn also is negatively affecting local governments, which rely on sales and gaming tax revenues for infrastructure and other critical work, Stoll added.

Regarding the graduated income tax, which will appear on Tuesday’s ballot, Stall said that 32 other states, including states neighboring Illinois, successfully use the graduated income tax. He added that he has had conversations with Republicans who argue that legislators shouldn’t be allowed to allocate more money if it won’t be budgeted correctly.

“I think that that’s a fair argument, and my answer to that every single time is vote the right people in then because that’s what is key to get the people in that want to balance the budget that want to use those funds appropriately,” Stoll said.

Hammond said she often hears the argument that 32 other states have this tax, and although these states may be responsible with taxpayer dollars, she is not aware of any state with a graduated income tax that does not also tax retirement.

“I think that is something that should give pause, particularly when we have retired teachers that are maybe older that are not eligible for Social Security,” Hammond said. “So their pension is all they have and to tap into that or allow for the possibility of tapping into that, I think, is a significant change, and we need to certainly be cognizant of that.”

Until the state can control spending, Hammond said she doesn’t see the tax as the right solution for Illinois.

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