Our state is in a financial crisis, and without a balanced budget, we cannot regrow our economy. However, cutting the size of government, and the role that it plays, is not the only answer. Neither is an immediate call to raise income taxes. I will work with anyone of good faith to find a balanced approach that reviews our spending, line-by-line, seeks to identify efficiencies, and streamlines the delivery of government services. I will also pledge to review any work toward new sources of revenue that, when coupled with an examination of the budget, will lead us to fiscal stability.
My own father has lived in a nursing home for over ten years due to a struggle with vascular dementia, bi-polar disorder, and Parkinson’s disease. Because of the struggle to get him the care that he needed, I have spent most of my professional career working for seniors and their families that are facing issues of nursing home placement, Medicaid eligibility, caregiving needs, and prevention of elder abuse and neglect. These experiences, plus the honor of having served on the Illinois Long Term Care Council and the Illinois State Bar Association’s elder law council, make me uniquely aware of the struggles that many seniors face.
Everyone deserves the ability to retire and live out their lives in dignity. But, too often, the fundamental social contract of caring for our seniors comes under attack in the name of balancing budgets. As former Vice President Hubert Humphrey stated “It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
Many of our parents and grandparents, who helped build up our great State, have seen in the last several years of economic hardship, the need for home-based care services as they age, a friendly face with a nourishing meal (through local programs like Meals on Wheels), energy assistance funding, and ultimately, assisted or skilled care accommodations. As your state representative, I will fight to maintain programs that provide dignity to our seniors.
Rebuilding Illinois for a 21st century economy requires us to invest in our future, and that future is our children. For far too long, there has been a disparity between the school districts of our state. It is time to find a comprehensive school funding plan that ensures that every child in our state – from Chicago’s inner city to our own backyard in Springfield and all the way down to Cairo – has access to the same high quality education.
To reach this goal, we need to invest in early childhood education, increase access to new technologies, and prepare our high school students for further education post-graduation through college assistance programs and trades & vocational training.
Most of the men and women who work for the state of Illinois, ensuring that state programs and services are effectively administered, are the backbone of our state’s government. Far too often these dedicated men and women are used as a political scapegoat for our state’s budget deficit. However, the underfunding of our state pension systems is not new. “Robbing Peter to pay Paul” has been a budgetary maneuver for far too long.
While it is our duty to ensure that state programs and services are delivered as efficiently as possible, including making sure that staffing is appropriate to the needs of those programs, we should strive to ensure that our state employees are paid fair wages for their service and that the pension promises made to them are protected.
Going forward, there may be room to examine the pension benefit that new state employees receive. But let us remember that oftentimes, public service is not paid at a wage that is comparable in the private sector. Therefore, we must come together to find a Constitutional solution that honors the service of our current employees and adequately compensates the talent of tomorrow.
Illinois’s primary economic engine remains agriculture. As an attorney, I have helped many families protect their family farms for the next generation. Together, we must work to sustain and strengthen our ag-economy. I will work to promote policies that reward best management practices from no-till farming to nutrient loss reduction strategies to sustainable farming operations.
Additionally, I have represent grassroots citizen groups who worked to form cooperative water supply systems in Sangamon and Christian Counties. These systems rely on government funding to drive economic development in our rural communities and homesteads.
Together, we can strengthen our family farms and rural communities to make them viable for years to come.