Eggers, Costello II race heating up - Republic-Times | News

Eggers, Costello II race heating up

By on September 19, 2012 at 9:38 am

Julie Bigham Eggers

Jerry Costello II

With the election about a month and a half away, the 116th District State Representative race between Republican Julie Bigham Eggers and Democrat Jerry Costello II has gotten a little more interesting.
Eggers, 41, of Columbia, the owner of a business consulting firm, issued a news release announcing her signing of a “No Perks Pledge” that states she would refuse to accept the $67,836 salary offered to Illinois legislators and the taxpayer-funded pension and benefits if elected.

She challenged her opponent to do the same. State Rep. Costello, 43, of Smithton, was appointed by party leaders as the replacement for Rep. Dan Reitz (D-Steeleville) upon his retirement last year.

“I have signed a ‘No Perks Pledge’ to state firmly, ‘The State of Illinois is broke and in desperate need of repair. Illinois’ deficit is $43.8 billion. Illinois’ pension debt is $83 billion; $126 billion — that’s how much Illinois is in debt thanks to our elected officials at our State Capitol. Illinois legislators haven’t earned nor deserve the lavish pension and Cadillac health care benefits paid for by the taxpayers,” Eggers stated. “By signing this pledge, I will refuse to accept any taxpayer-funded pension and health care benefits.'”

This pledge came after an article appeared in Sunday’s Belleville News-Democrat, in which Eggers was quoted as saying that while she wouldn’t accept a pension if elected, she is “in it for the (health) insurance,” adding she has a child with special medical needs.

The BND article also stated that Costello has signed up for both the legislative pension and health insurance.

“The state is broke and we cannot afford benefits like these for elected officials,” Eggers said in her ‘No Perks Pledge’ statement issued Sunday afternoon.

While Costello’s campaign didn’t respond to the pledge challenge, it did issue a statement on the confusion caused by Eggers’ quotes in the BND article.

“Clearly, Julie has a problem with changing her positions,” read a campaign statement issued Monday. “It is obvious Julie’s political handlers from Chicagoland are trying to spin her erratic and inconsistent statements. There’s no way that voters should put trust in her pledge gimmick.”

In an earlier news release, Costello stated that Eggers’ “troubling behavior” is part of what’s wrong with Springfield.

“Local residents deserve to have leaders who live up to their word and don’t change their positions because it’s politically expedient or because they realized they said something they shouldn’t have,” he said.

A spokesman for Eggers, Chris Guy, later said the candidate’s quotes in the BND article were taken out of context.

In a news release issued Thursday, Eggers said that if elected, she would propose that state lawmakers do not get paid unless they pass a “real” balanced state budget.

The Illinois Constitution currently calls for a balanced budget, Eggers said, but does not ensure the state’s general checkbook is balanced at the end of the year and also fails to outline any measures to ensure accountability.

Eggers’ proposal would require that state spending never exceeds revenue in a fiscal year and offers new budgetary procedures — or else legislators will not get paid.

“Legislators and their leadership need to be held accountable,” she said. “Having their pay on the line just might motivate them to get the state’s finances in order.”

Eggers’ proposal would require a Constitutional Amendment to become law.

Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.