The Illinois General Assembly is just over halfway through its scheduled spring session. I wanted to give you a brief update on where things stand and a look ahead at what might be coming in the closing weeks.
Madigan indicted for corruption
Former House Speaker Mike Madigan was indicted on several corruption charges on Wednesday. Madigan ruled the Illinois House for 36 of the past 38 years and used his position to pass unbalanced budgets and to stop important reforms like term limits and fair maps. He also blocked many ethics reforms over the years. I hope that his indictment, coupled with so many others of Illinois politicians over the years, will give new energy to the effort to enact real ethics reform and end the culture of corruption in Springfield.
Governor Pritzker proposes budget which spends more than our revenue grows
In his budget address the Governor painted a very rosy picture of where things stand in Illinois. But he left out a few things.
For example, a lot of the fiscal progress he touted is temporary. It wasn’t because of good management – it was because of a wave of federal dollars through the COVID relief bills. We aren’t going to have that money going forward. He proposed adding $2.5 billion in spending, while our revenue is projected to shrink by $460 million.
He failed to outline any changes to the underlying structural problems in state government which cause so many of our woes.
Nothing is going to permanently improve without real reforms to property taxes, our job creation climate and our bad habit of overspending.
I liked what the Governor said about some tax relief – especially considering that he’s spent the last three years trying to raise taxes. But I wonder if that’s just a gimmick or if it is something that will actually become a reality. The record of the last few years doesn’t make me optimistic.
Appropriations committees have been working all month and will continue to hear from agencies to review the budget. We are scheduled to pass a budget and adjourn by April 8.
Blasting Pritzker pardon of arsonist who became fire chief
A couple of weeks ago I spoke at a press conference demanding answers from Governor Pritzker concerning the circumstances of a pardon given to a convicted arsonist who was then able to become the fire chief of a small town in Illinois. I was outraged to learn what had happened, and now I am sponsoring legislation to keep it from ever happening again.
Governor Pritzker’s pardon was a slap in the face to all of the hard-working, honest firefighters throughout our state who put themselves in harm’s way every day. The pardon made me angry not just as a state representative but also as a mayor who cannot fathom what I would do if a similar situation happened in the city I serve.
A majority of the affected community’s firefighters resigned in protest when they learned that a convicted arsonist was about to become their chief. I sympathize with them: part of being a firefighter is trusting that the people behind you have your back, but how can they trust their chief to have their back under these circumstances?
Governor Pritzker’s pardon created an unnecessary public safety crisis and I think he owes the people of Illinois some answers. Why did he issue the pardon? Did the Prisoner Review Board recommend the pardon? Was political clout involved?
It is time for the Governor to come clean and be honest with the people of Illinois.
Supporting a reform agenda
I have joined with my House Republican colleagues in supporting a reform agenda in Springfield which would clean up corruption, improve public safety, create jobs and bring back responsible budgeting. Our package of bills is called Reimagine Illinois. It represents a path forward from the corrupt, fiscally-challenged, high-crime, high-unemployment reputation Illinois currently has to a better future of good government, safe neighborhoods and good jobs.
Our plan has four key parts.
The first is ethics reform: exposing conflicts of interest, banning General Assembly members from working as lobbyists, reforming the legislative process so that more bills receive hearings and votes, and easing the process for citizens to introduce amendments to the state Constitution.
A second key part of our plan is common sense fiscal responsibility. We should require budgets to be truly balanced, have a transparent budgeting process, save our pension systems and tackle government inefficiency.
We also need to grow jobs and opportunities for our families. Our plan would encourage investment across Illinois, care for families, establish an apprenticeship education program and get rid of overregulation and mandates which make Illinois less attractive for job creators.
The final part of our plan involves public safety and supporting our police. We need to end corruption and patronage in law enforcement training, improve the FOID card process, study the effects of bail reform to find ways to improve the system while keeping people safe, and help our communities to hire and train the best police officers in the country.
You can review our proposals and share your opinions at ReimagineIllinois.com.
Keep in touch!
If you have any thoughts, questions or ideas about legislation as we enter the final month of the spring session, do not hesitate to reach out to me. My office can assist you if you need help with a state agency or a state program.
Please contact my office at (309) 620-9191 or stop by and say hello at 2964 Court Street in Pekin. You can find news and information from state government or share your thoughts with me by visiting my website at RepLuft.com.