SPRINGFIELD, IL – I hope for this space to become a weekly or semi-weekly update on what is going on in Springfield and in the 51st State Senate District as pertains to Illinois government. This week, lawmakers heard Governor Pat Quinn give his annual State of the State address.
I was pleased to hear Governor Quinn discuss well-intended ethics reforms and I look forward to working with him on his proposals to clean up Illinois government. However, the Governor’s discussion was lacking on the jobs front. I was flabbergasted by the lack of real substance on improving the Illinois economic climate. After touring all 10 counties in the 51st Senate District over the past two weeks, I have heard one message – ‘we need jobs - and in a big way.’ For Governor Quinn to assume that our economic climate is fine defies logic, as Illinois lags behind our bordering states and the nation as a whole when it comes to job creation. I will continue to push for substantive and tangible regulatory reforms, like true workers compensation reform in order to get Illinois back to work.
Of local concern the Governor mentioned in his speech, opening a new manufacturing lab in Chicago in cooperation with the University of Illinois. Some of the largest global companies already have a presence on campus and it is in close proximity to manufacturers like ADM and Caterpillar. Any relocation of the “best and the brightest” minds to Chicago could be disastrous for our local economy. Additionally, it could actually thwart the mission itself by moving manufacturing further away from the actual manufacturers.
Many of Quinn’s proposals are not likely to ever see the light of day. For instance, his assault on the 2nd Amendment with various proposals to go after law abiding citizen’s right-to-bear are struggling to gain momentum. On the other hand, “conceal carry” is gaining momentum with hearings scheduled in the House.
Within the past couple of weeks, we have brought our full-time offices online. The two offices are in Champaign and Decatur. Between these locations, nearly 70% of the entire 51st Senate District will be only a short drive from one or the other. I will also be announcing satellite offices in the coming weeks so that the others further away will have a close and convenient location as well. In the meantime, I can be reached by phone at 217-607-1853 or by e-mail at email@example.com for constituent concerns, inquiries, or for those who want to voice their opinion on any particular topic.
51st District ‘Transition Tour’
The Spring Session did not begin in earnest until this past week, therefore, January was dedicated to the 51st District “Transition Tour” where I visited all 10 counties that spans from south of Bloomington-Normal to Cowden-Herrick and to the Edgar County border with Indiana.
Highlights of the tour included a trip to the Clinton Nuclear Generation station, visiting with countless mayors, county officers, economic development officials, 40 + school visits, and hospitals - all of which have given me a much better “needs assessment” of the district. Obviously, being in Springfield involves writing laws and working to get the state budget back in order; however, a lot of what I do involves helping locals ‘navigate’ state government. For example, this week I will be meeting with IDOT officials on a number of local roads matters that came about as a result of this tour. Also, next week, I will be introducing several bills of local significance to areas across the 51st District – many of which were suggested by individuals from the tour.
Governor’s Budget Address
Speaking of the state budget, March 6th will mark the official beginning of the budget negotiations for Fiscal Year 2014, when Governor Quinn gives his annual budget speech. His words and actions will guide how progress is, or is not, made to reduce state spending. The pension payment is expected to increase by $1.2 billion for this year while “natural revenue growth” is only going to be about $800 million. Negotiations on the pension situation are ongoing. This process should be opened up to more transparency. It should not be done behind closed doors by legislative leaders. My hope is that the Governor will take a more serious line on spending cuts and avoid introducing new programs which are unfunded or unbudgeted.
As mentioned, I hope to make this column a regular update for local readers. In future columns, I plan to delve into much more detail on the issues of the day (like the pension reform progress and state budget) than this introductory column would allow. However, I also want to use this as an opportunity for feedback from you. So, please feel free to call or email me with questions or suggested topics for discussion.