On critical issues important to working families, Illinois must turn the tide in 2022 or risk irreparable damage from which taxpayers and our population will not be able to recover.
Restoring checks and balances by involving the legislature in pandemic decision-making, balancing our state budget with no new taxes and fees, restoring public safety ravaged by rash policy decisions to punish the police, and real ethics reform should all be issues on which we can agree, regardless of what side of the aisle you support.
Restoring checks and balances
Over the past 19 months, I and other state legislators have been inundated with e-mails and calls from frustrated parents, job creators, concerned community members and local elected officials about round after round of new executive mandates related to the pandemic, few of which have been debated nor approved by the legislative branch of Illinois’ state government, but rather seized as “emergency powers” by Gov. JB Pritzker.
Despite the push from the House Republican Caucus for legislative involvement in this decision-making since the beginning of the pandemic, Democrats hold supermajority control over the Illinois House, the Illinois Senate and have control of all statewide executive offices, including the governor. There are 73 Democrats and 45 Republicans in the Illinois House. The only two officials who have the authority to call the Illinois House into special session to take up legislation the members of the minority party have proposed are Democrat Speaker Chris Welch and Gov. JB Pritzker. Both have staked out clear positions to allow the executive branch to exercise this authority unchecked by the legislature for the time being. Where they have acted, House Democrats have been complicit in allowing unabated executive overreach to rule the day.
This must change in 2022. The legislature represents the interests of small businesses, public schools, families, and our most vulnerable and should be allowed to do so as prescribed by our Constitution.
Balancing our state budget with no new taxes and fees
The Illinois General Assembly passed a Fiscal Year 2022 state budget this past May. Every budget put before us in the past 5 years has been larger than the year before. You may hear me talk about process in Springfield a lot. The budget process is one that is particularly bad. There is a lack of negations and transparency. This year’s budget had things that we must fund, but it also included roughly $600 million in tax increases on Illinois employers, $1 billion in statewide gas tax-funded projects in Democrat-only districts and included pay raises for legislators.
I, along with all members of the minority caucus, voted no on this budget. In a time where families are having to keep tight household budgets, their state government should do the same. We can do the same! We must stop spending your hard-earned money irresponsibly and we should not be funding new pet programs that we will not be able to maintain in the years to come.
Restoring public safety
Last January, the Majority Party in Springfield pushed through partisan legislation to eliminate cash bail for most crimes, pushed radical policies (they called criminal justice reform) to protect criminals, and enacted legislation which will have long-term effects on public safety in the State of Illinois as well as recruitment of law enforcement officers.
While in Springfield in the final hours of the lame-duck session, the majority party pushed through omnibus bills that were passed prior to any of us knowing exactly what was in them. I was proud to speak out and stand up for rule of law, stand up for victims of crimes and advocate for our law enforcement officers who protect that thin blue line between the good, the bad and truly evil.
Many of the changes enacted by the supermajority are not practical and are hurting law enforcement recruitment and retention across the state. An unprecedented number of sheriffs across Illinois have also announced an earlier retirement. These policies must be changed this spring.
Real ethics reform
Illinois’ last legislative inspector general, Carol Pope, resigned in protest over the lack of legislative sincerity in giving her subpoena powers to investigate their activities. Let’s remember, this appointee was appointed by fellow Democrats and then made clear she was not being given the tools to do her job, resigning in protest.
Meanwhile, I have continued to fight for substantive, meaningful reforms along with the House Republican Caucus. We have proposed creating a one-year revolving door ban for lawmakers hoping to become lobbyists. Our alternate plan gives more power to the legislative inspector general, and most importantly, the LIG would have subpoena power without prior approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission.
These four areas are not the only topics the General Assembly must address next year, but important reforms are needed in these areas to get our state back on track. With jobs and people moving across our borders, there should be plenty of room for bipartisan agreement on tackling these issues. I will continue to work with anyone who wants to work to save Illinois.