Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Thursday July 14th, 2016, 3:34pm

Controversy Over Joe Walsh's Threatening Tweet Spills Over Into 66th House District Race

Controversy over former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh's incendiary tweets posted last Thursday after the deadly sniper attack on Dallas police officers has spilled over into the state's 66th House District race.

The Democrat in the race, Nancy Zettler, is calling on her Republican opponent, Allen Skillicorn, to disavow Walsh's "hate-filled statements."

Walsh has faced backlash for a now-deleted tweet that threatened "war" on President Barack Obama and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

"3 Dallas Cops killed, 7 wounded. This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you," Walsh tweeted Thursday. 

Walsh, a conservative radio talk show host, has since explained that he "was not trying to incite violence against Obama and Black Lives Matter" with his tweet, which he claims was deleted by Twitter.

As a Walsh "supporter" who has fundraised for the former Tea Party congressman, Zettler said in an interview this week that Skillicorn is "in a position where he should have come out and disavowed what Joe Walsh said."

"It's not something that does anything to correct the situation in the country," Zettler said of Walsh's comments. "I think it's harmful, and it actually puts people, including police officers, at risk, because he's just ginning up the emotion that's there."

The Skillicorn camp did not return messages seeking comment for this story.

Skillicorn is an East Dundee village trustee and former executive vice chairman of the Kane County Republican Party, while Zettler of Algonquin is an attorney and community activist.

The two are vying for the seat being vacated by state Rep. Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake), who is retiring.

The 66th House District covers areas of Kane and McHenry Counties, including parts of Algonquin, Carpentersville, Crystal Lake, East Dundee, Huntley, Lake in the Hills, West Dundee and other communities.

Other Issues In 66th House District Race

The topic of tax increment financing (TIF) is one that both candidates have highlighted in their campaigns.

TIF is an economic development program that depends on property tax dollars. Through the program, a portion of property tax dollars gets extracted from those living within TIF districts established by municipalities in areas deemed economically blighted. That tax revenue would otherwise go to local units of government such as public school systems.

In return, TIF money is used for economic development projects, like a housing facility or retail project, that will supposedly generate future property taxes inside the TIF districts.

TIFs have been debated in the case of an East Dundee Walmart store that closed and relocated last month in nearby Carpentersville, which approved a $4.3 million TIF subsidy for the project. The issue has spurred an ongoing legal fight waged by East Dundee officials trying to block the Walmart subsidy on the grounds that the store's three-mile relocation makes the project ineligible for TIF funds.

Skillicorn has highlighted the East Dundee Walmart relocation as an example of why TIF laws need reforming. 

"East Dundee now has another vacant and blighted building to remind people that TIFs and corporate welfare don't work," he said in a statement Thursday. "TIFs are structured to benefit developers with corporate welfare, not the local communities. Until the TIF law is changed in Springfield, more and more communities will be pitted against one another, and only the developers will benefit."

For her part, Zettler said she believes there are too many "corporate giveaways" at various levels of government in Illinois.

"I'm just against the large corporations that basically think that this is part of what they're due just because they're in your state doing business, and I think it hurts the taxpayer," she said.

Speaking about TIFs, Zettler claimed such subsidies are "abused on a regular basis," noting that projects are often approved in areas that are far from blighted.

"I would love to see a moratorium" on large TIF subsidies while the program is studied for improvements, she said, adding that the state's Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) tax credit program is another potential area for reform.

"We're talking about a lot of money [given out through the TIF and EDGE programs], and I think if we take a good hard look at that, we can at least make a giant dent in what we need [for the state budget] by maybe recapturing those funds," she said. 

On other tax issues, Zettler said she would work to reduce property taxes for district residents if elected to the statehouse and would not support an income tax hike on working and middle-class Illinoisans, though she is open to such an increase on millionaires. 

"I do believe that the millionaires tax is something that we should strongly consider, but I would not vote to increase taxes on, like I said, middle-class and working people," she said.

Zettler, meanwhile, spoke about the political climate at the Illinois Capitol and sought to draw a contrast between her and Skillicorn.

"There's an extremist edge to him that, I think, is not helpful to anybody," she said of her opponent. "He has basically said his goal when he goes to Springfield is to fight Mike Madigan, [and he] doesn't really say what positive things he will do to try to move things forward. It seems like it would just be more entrenchment.

"I, on the other hand, am more than willing and looking forward to working with people on both sides of the aisle to try to move things forward. I think a big reason that this state is so locked into partisan inability to work is because there's not enough people down there that want to actually move things forward, as opposed to staying entrenched on party politics. I am not beholden to anybody. The only people I would be beholden to if I were to go down to Springfield would be the people that live in this district."

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