NORTHWESTERN ILLINOIS — To know you are standing both in the foot-steps and on the shoulders of so many mostly-good and decent public servants is humbling; to recognize the great responsibility and efforts needed to make our State solvent again is sobering. As a newly elected Representative last Fall, it was understandably awe-inspiring to walk through the Illinois State Capitol Rotunda to the doors of the House Chamber to begin serving Northwestern Illinois in a chair under a giant portrait of Abraham Lincoln that hangs over the Republican side of the Chamber.
The week of January 7th was my first week “on the job” on your behalf in Springfield as we rounded out the end of “lame duck” Session in Springfield before the Illinois House Inauguration on January 9th. Before the new 101st General Assembly could take the oath of office, the 100th General Assembly had some business to complete. The incoming Governor followed suit from the outgoing Governor in requesting pay raises for his Executive Appointees beyond the level set in the Illinois Constitution—as some things change, some still stay the same.
I voted NO on this pay raise for his appointees. I strongly believe there is a reason we have caps on salaries for our State Agency Directors and Administrators. Public service is supposed to be about just that. These jobs are time intensive and that is recognized through higher salaries accompanying these posts, but to pay State Agency Directors more than we pay the President of the United States, seems both tone-deaf of our fiscal reality and tin-eared to the concerns of Illinoisans being forced out of their homes because of higher taxes. These job posts are not supposed to be careers or lucrative. I was grateful to have received so many calls about this issue and was humbled that so many of you already knew in calling that I would stand in opposition to this pay raise. After these pay raises passed, the new Governor also announced he would be supplementing these employees pay further through his own private funds. Some will make over $300,000/year for their public service. I have learned quickly that there are many vestiges of poor fiscal management in state government yet to be addressed.
It’s important to share with you, though, how encouraged I am about this opportunity to turn our State around. Meeting my fellow new legislators and greeting some great leaders in our State, I continue to be very positive about the future Illinois can have. Most say that Illinois problems are many- and they are. Most say that easy answers are few- and they are right about that too. However, despite that, I have already seen great ideas and reforms coming out of every corner of Illinois- an ambitious recognition of a desire to not complain, but to strive for change.
We all know why people are leaving Illinois- taxes are too high, job opportunities are blossoming elsewhere, and an antiquated state government bureaucracy does not respond quickly enough to conditions on the battlefield of competitiveness. I am excited to represent your interests on that battlefield now, this time not as a businessman, nor as a member of the Freeport City Council, but as your Representative in the Illinois General Assembly. I stand ready to tackle reforms to our state’s regressive property tax system, reduce costs in our pension systems to make them sustainable for members and taxpayers, balance budgets recognizing our sober fiscal outlook and enhance our business climate to attract jobs back to Illinois.
The time for a new direction starts today…it starts with us all.
If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at www.repchesney.com.