State Rep. Darren Bailey told an Effingham audience on Friday that the values shared by many in central Illinois are being threatened.
“We’re going to be fighting second amendment issues, moral issues, vaping concerns, and we’re coming into a veto session and we really have no idea of what we will be facing,” he said. “Our values, our work ethic is here.”
Bailey, R-Louisville, spoke during the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce First Friday breakfast. He was joined State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, and State Senators Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, and Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville shared their views with chamber members.
Wilhour said that at the state level that there are big problems and a lot of things out of adjustment.
“There’s very little talk about real solutions to big problems,” he said.
He pointed to property taxes, a balanced budget, excessive government and pension reform.
“I think we have an obligation to articulate solutions and be bold on that in Springfield,” he said. “If we’re not going to do it who is?”
He talked about the progressive income tax being on the ballot.
“If we vote this down that’s going to force some tough decisions in Springfield,” he said.
Plummer said state lawmakers will have to cut through some of the clutter on a national level to focus on state issues. He brought up the fiscal crisis in Illinois and how Springfield needs to acknowledge that.
“Once they acknowledge that, hopefully we can start moving forward in the right direction,” he said.
Plummer also brought up the progressive income tax.
“There’s going to be so much propaganda out there about how we are taking it to the millionaires and billionaires and how we’re going to fix the crisis in Illinois,” he said. “And we all know we can look at other states that have gone this direction and the brackets are going to expand, the rates are going to go up and everyone is going to be paying a lot more.”
Righter said the most prominent issue is the constitutional amendment resolution. One of two things he addressed directly were the repeal of the flat tax mandate that currently exists in the Illinois constitution, prohibiting the government from assessing more than one income tax on any individual at any one time. That language would be stripped out by the proposed change, he said.
“The reason that is in there is to allow state government, if it so chooses to apply separate income taxes or surcharges based on the type of income one might be making,” he said. “I think that’s a very dangerous change to make.”
The local legislators also discussed economic development, including tax increment financing. Wilhour said that there isn’t much in the tool bag for economic growth in the State of Illinois. He stated that if he had it his way, everyone would get rid of economic incentives and let free market do its thing.
“We can’t be using public money on projects that don’t produce economic multipliers,” Wilhour said. “If you can’t lay out a pathway where these resources are going to result in new jobs or expansion of the tax base then it’s not a worthy investment.”
Plummer, who has a business background, said he has never participated in a TIF.
“I personally, to a large degree, have a beef with some of these programs because there’s a tremendous amount of abuse within the system,” he said.
Plummer said that there is a time and place for TIFs and enterprise zones. He said that the City of Effingham is a good example of a municipality that’s been prudent and shown success.
“They are a great opportunity, when used correctly and properly, and I hope it’s something that we can use to revitalize the industries that have traditionally driven this part of the state,” he said.
Righter said that there are two types of economic policy that can be taken, nationally and at the state level. One is the nature of the system requiring that everyone be treated fairly and the system that Illinois has where there are a bunch of small presents under a Christmas tree and the first person that goes downstairs and opens a present gets to take advantage of it.
“In Illinois we have a lot of those economic trinkets or presents, but not everyone can access them,” he said.
Bailey said that it all boils down to accountability.
“Accountability to government overall is the root of the solution to the abuse that takes place with the TIF districts,” he said.
The lawmakers also discussed ways to develop cleaner, safer, healthier methods of energy without ruining the economy.
Plummer thinks the question we have to ask is: Do we want to make sure that when we flip a light switch, do we want to make sure it turns on in a way consistently and reliably without everyone’s energy prices going through the roof.
“The way you do that is taking advantage of the resources that we have been blessed with in Illinois, and some of those are carbon based,” he said.
He added that we are moving toward sustainable and environmentally friendly enregy sources, but officials should not do that in a way that leads to an unreliable grid.
“Why don’t we access our resources – oil, gas and coal – that we have in southern Illinois that can power a safe, clean, reliable low cost grid,” Plummer said. “And develop those resources to help solve the fiscal crisis of the state and help provide cheap, reliable energy for the businesses and families of southern Illinois.”
Righter said that we need to strike a reasonable balance between the search for expanding renewable energies and the use of the more conventional power supplies that we have used in the past.
“It’s easy to encourage the development of renewable fuels while you’re enjoying the relatively inexpensive utility bill in your home or for the large scale electric user,” he said. “When you start walking down the road that state government has, it will be interesting to see whose interested in solar panels and windmills when their utility prices are three times what they are now.”
“It costs more today to manufacture, transport and erect a windmill than it will ever produce in energy,” Bailey said.
Wilhour said that 30 years from now coal and nuclear are still going to be energy providers.
“What the state of Illinois is saying is that at the end of the day as we pursue these things is that at the end of the day we’re going to be buying this energy from somewhere else,” he said. Southern Illinois is blessed with great natural resources, he said.
Wilhour added that we are leaving so much economic potential on the table just to satisfy a political agenda and at the end of the day we will still be in the situation where we’re importing energy instead of exporting it.