In short, the state of Illinois has a serious spending problem. During the two-year budget stalemate, when Democrats closed ranks and steadfastly refused to adopt even modest spending reforms, state debt and unpaid bills rose dramatically. Springfield’s solution: raise your taxes, again, even though it didn’t fix the problem last time. This influx of new revenue, your money, is a step backwards and will only hasten the exodus of people and business fleeing the state. Illinois must balance the budget without more tax increases. Period. The state pension system has been deliberately underfunded and now faces insolvency, state agencies are managed inefficiently, often failing to adequately deliver services to the people who need them most, and the legislature continues to add new programs and greater cost. The only long-term solution is to gradually cut spending and grow the economy, bringing more businesses and quality jobs back to Illinois.
The focus of our education system should be children, and providing them the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed. Everything else should take a back seat to this goal. The best education system is a local one. Parents, teachers, and administrators in every school district should be empowered to make the important decisions that govern education, with only limited intervention from the state. Local districts are burdened with a number of unfunded mandates that cost valuable public resources with questionable benefits. Not only do mandates harm local districts, but so does the diversion of funding from Southern Illinois toward supporting the City of Chicago’s failing school system. The recent education funding bill that was passed, despite a veto from the governor, contained a $200 million dollar block grant for the city as well as $221 million to support their pension system; both of which amount to a bailout of Chicago schools.
State-funded higher education must refocus on delivering on core educational objectives and doing so affordably. State universities, once broadly accessible to middle class families, have become utterly unaffordable and the tuition that students pay is consumed by administrative costs that yield minimal classroom benefits. Through the budget process the legislature can and should exert more control and oversight of university funding, demanding greater accountability from school administrators. I also strongly support expanding access to community colleges and vocational schools across the state for those students seeking to pursue careers in the trades. Skilled workers are the strongest asset that any economy can have and the more local access to vocational education Illinoisans have, the better the state will be.
I strongly support efforts to develop the state’s abundant coal, oil, and natural gas to create quality jobs and grow the economy. Southern Illinois has more proven BTUs in its coal reserves than Saudi Arabia does in its oil fields and to write off this abundant source of energy is short-sighted and deprives our state and our workers the opportunity to prosper. State government has placed roadblock after roadblock in the path of energy companies who are seeking to invest in Illinois infrastructure and employ Illinois workers, negatively impacting Southern Illinois communities and families in a major way. I will be a strong proponent of Southern Illinois energy, fighting to create thousands of new jobs while bringing down the cost of living for our families.
Corruption is a word that gets used a lot to describe Illinois, but I believe the problem is deeply engrained in the state’s political cultural. Since our early history, politicians have had incentives to break the rules and criminal elements have infiltrated the highest offices of state and local government. The late Secretary of State Paul Powell, a Southern Illinois native, was quoted as saying, "There's only one thing worse than a defeated politician, and that's a broke one." This mantra has been carried onward by too many of our so-called leaders who enrich themselves at the expense of the people and mock our civic institutions and the importance of public service. Sadly, corruption and ethical malpractice are committed by politicians from both parties and all regions of the state.
In office, I will continually push for changes that make politicians accountable to their voters, like making it impossible for them to draw themselves safe political districts and allowing voters to have a say on changing the state’s constitution to allow for term-limits. I’m sick and tired of the self-interested “leaders” we send to Springfield who fall in love with their special license plate and title, and lose site of the families they are supposed to fight for and the communities they are supposed to represent. I will be a strong, independent, and conservative voice and leader for Southern Illinois.
Investment in capital infrastructure has suffered in Illinois, in no small part because the bills that fund improvement projects are often filled with local pork projects that have nothing to do with updating crumbling infrastructure. Currently, the state does not have a capital spending plan and without one, the roads, bridges, and waterways through which the lifeblood of the economy flows will continue to deteriorate and economic growth that should happen may fail to materialize. Our state sits in the heart of the country. This district lies along the Interstate 70, intersected by Interstates 57 and 55. The opportunities exist for our towns to be a part of a logistical boom and Illinois needs to pull out the stops to ensure that the infrastructure is available and maintained so that we can boost jobs, grow businesses, and prosper to our fullest potential.
The drug epidemic that has escalated into a national emergency is a direct and immediate threat to the way of life in economically fragile, rural communities. Neutralizing this threat, and the other criminal activities associated with it, is of critical importance to the general welfare of the people and the issue of public safety is a pillar of my campaign. Safe communities are prosperous communities and without adequate resources our law enforcement agencies cannot effectively patrol neighborhoods, investigate crime, educate the public, and confront the unique challenges of policing in rural areas. State government should partner with these agencies to help coordinate their response plans and grant access to better resources.
I am Pro-Life. The fundamental sanctity of human life is the cornerstone of our democratic society and an integral part of my faith and my conscience. Illinois recently became the first state to enact a law that uses taxpayer funds to pay for abortions. Under no circumstance should the tax dollars of hard-working Illinoisans be allotted for the taking of innocent life. I am committed to the full repeal of this measure, previously known as House Bill 40, and will stand with any other like-minded lawmakers in Springfield, of either party, to get this done.
Military issues uniquely impact the 54th Senate District due to the presence of nearby Scott Air Force Base and the large number of veterans and active-duty military who live here. My family has a long history of military service and from an early age instilled in me the vital importance of this service to our country and our state. I fully appreciate the sacrifices that these men and women in uniform make to keep us safe and it is the solemn duty of our elected officials to do the same for them. In the senate, I will emphasize policies that give veterans opportunities for employment, housing, and education. I will also seek to work with municipalities throughout the district to address the unique local needs of veterans, especially those returning to civilian life from active duty and those living with addiction or suffer from post-traumatic stress.
I have a lot of experience growing businesses and creating quality jobs, and know firsthand what a good job can do for a family. Southern Illinois needs growth. There are a few places in this district where business is expanding and people are prospering, but unfortunately there are far too many other places facing high unemployment and limited opportunities. This reality is crippling to the lives of people who live in these communities. With poverty comes drug use, crime, and social decay that is difficult to repair. My plan is to advocate for proven conservative policies that will spur growth, reduce the cost of doing business in Illinois, and make it easier to employ people and start and grow a business. People in Southern Illinois work hard and don’t expect something for nothing. What they do expect, though, is a fair chance. I will fight to give them that chance.
Sportsmanship, conservation, and self-defense are all vital to the lives of people in rural Illinois and I will be a vote in favor of allowing our citizens to exercise their constitutional rights, wherever they may live. Illinois state and local gun control policies have failed to stop the tragic violence, access to illegal guns, and rampant criminality that plague many communities. Our centuries-old tradition of responsible gun ownership should be respected and I will oppose the push to enact statewide policies that restrict it, make it harder to obtain a license, or impose draconian penalties on law-abiding citizens aimed at correcting problems caused only by those with no regard for the law to begin with. The Second Amendment, to me, is not a political talking point. It’s a passion and a constitutional necessity.
Wherever I go, I am constantly impressed by the energy and strength of senior citizens throughout the 54th District, and across the state. Seniors work, volunteer, donate, mentor, and give back in countless ways to the communities that they helped to build. Our aging parents, grandparents, and relatives have an absolute right to age with dignity and I will support policies that protect seniors where they live and make it easier for them to deal with the government when they need to.
Abuse of the elderly is a vastly under-reported problem. Many seniors sadly face financial exploitation, verbal or physical abuse, and neglect; often at the hands of those closest to them. I am committed to tackling these issues and supporting law enforcement and Adult Protective Services in their mission to keep vulnerable seniors safe from predators. I support partnering the state with financial institutions and other businesses to educate their employees about the signs of financial exploitation of the elderly, or other abuse, to help stop it before it’s too late. Our society as a whole should do more to educate citizens about how to prepare for growing older and to inform seniors about how they can be supported to continue living and flourishing in their homes and communities. I will work to promote policies that accomplish these goals.
Taxation is crippling our economy and is driving people, jobs, and businesses out of our state. I oppose tax increases. Illinoisans already have what many call the highest tax burden in the country and Springfield has shown that when given more money, they will swiftly waste it and enact no reforms. In fact, I support lowering and capping property taxes, lowering the state income tax, and rolling back many of the ridiculous and burdensome fees that people and businesses in Illinois face. I also support treating businesses that want to expand in Illinois fairly across the board and generally oppose special incentives given to certain businesses that know how to effectively take advantage of local governments; having the public fund their private sector enterprises.
I find myself wondering how different Illinois might look if rather than balancing the budget on the backs of taxpayers, the state had pursued pro-growth policies like our neighboring states in every direction. Businesses that went to Missouri, Wisconsin, or Indiana may very well have come here and brought quality jobs with them. Instead, the only entity experiencing consistent growth is government. As a businessman, I know exactly what factors make for a good economic climate and how on tax policy, Illinois is doing practically everything it can to make an Illinois town look unappealing compared to one a few miles away in another state. Many doubt we would have a deficit problem in Illinois if tens of thousands of good people, and good businesses, hadn’t been chased out of Illinois by poor public policy. Just think how vibrant our state would be. I will fight to bring those businesses and jobs back, create new ones, and get bad policies out of the way of Illinois’ vast potential.
My whole life I have been around people who serve their God, their family, and their country. They work hard to earn a living, give generously of themselves to their communities, and believe that with hard work and persistence, anything is possible. I was raised to know the value of work and to know that our traditions are the foundation upon which everything we have was built. These traditions, and conservative values that I was reared to respect, live on in the hearts of everyday people across the state, but have been forgotten by cynical politicians who give them no weight when crafting policies that impact all of us. When I go to Springfield, I will be your voice. I will fight day in, and day out, to ensure that the values that make Southern Illinois great are defended. Not only that, but these values are the tonic that can help cure our state of the dishonesty, self-interestedness, and lack of character that sadly we have become known for across the country. For too long, Illinois has been beholden to the morality of the Chicago way. I think the Vandalia way deserves a chance to be heard.