Illinois State Representative
By Kelley Arnold, CSG Director of Membership, Marketing and Media
While her district encompasses communities in the northern parts of Chicago, Rep. Elaine Nekritz sees her job as something bigger—bettering the lives of everyone living in Illinois.
That service was what drew her to public office in the first place.
“I knew that I wanted to give back to my community in a big way and running for state representative seemed like a great way to do just that,” she said.
Throughout her 10-year tenure in the Illinois House of Representatives, Nekritz has taken on a variety of issues. She has passed legislation to reduce diesel emissions, advocated increased funding for Head Start programs, promoted the elimination of waste from state government, educated senior citizens about government programs and worked diligently to improve statewide rail systems.
In her focus on the 57th district, Nekritz is committed to protecting people and their homes from the often rising waters of the Des Plaines River. She has spent years coordinating with local, state and federal leaders to ensure infrastructure was put into place to protect local homeowners.
“District 57 has experienced huge flooding problems,” said Nekritz. “It took decades to get levees built and functioning, but we finally got it done. I see this as one of the biggest district-level accomplishments during my time in the legislature.”
She also is dedicated to changing the way Illinois does business and strengthening state finances, both of which would help all Illinois residents.
But Nekritz knows change doesn’t always come easy.
“The largest obstacle facing state legislators over the past few years has been learning how to transition from the ‘business as usual’ mindset into finding new, efficient ways to move Illinois forward,” she said.
In her own attempt to find bold, innovative solutions to prevailing budgetary problems, Nekritz proposed the state’s first ever spending cap in 2011—a cap that Illinois has used for the past two budget cycles and helped lead to a state surplus at the end of the 2012 fiscal year.
“I am proud to be a part of helping Illinois balance its budget and passionate about setting Illinois on a path for fiscal health,” she said. “Education, transportation, health care—you can’t do any of those things when state finances are failing.”
Looking forward, Nekritz sees another area where Illinois will need move its policymaking outside the box.
“The biggest challenge facing state legislators this year will be pension reform. Illinois has the most underfunded plans in the country,” she said. “Finding a solution is of critical importance to stabilize the system.”
As a member the Governor’s Pension Working Group and chair of the House Pensions Committee, Nekritz knows the current system will need reform to be affordable and sustainable.
As Nekritz continues to look for inventive solutions to both district and statewide problems, she offers advice to incoming legislators who will face the need to maintain a balanced budget while also solving the state’s pension crisis.
“Listen. Learn. Be true to your principles. But most of all be bold.”