Illinois Senate District 49 candidate ashamed 'of what our state has become'
State Senate candidate Michelle Smith said she felt nothing but shame for Illinois when the recent proposed budget plan created by House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Dist. 22) passed the Illinois House last month.
She said she believes the plan, which was shot down in the Senate last week, was a slap in the face of voters.
“I’m ashamed of what our state has become," Smith, who is running for office in District 49, told the DuPage Policy Journal. "Ruled by a few with no thoughts on what they do to the people of Illinois, it is absolutely irresponsible and unforgivable that they voted to pass Madigan’s budget."
The plan, which Gov. Bruce Rauner also opposed, was under budget by more than $7 billion and would have raised taxes for the average family by at least $1,000, according to advisers close to the governor.
“How can our legislators follow a leader without considering the impact when they do so?” Smith said. “(It's) complete disrespect for our Constitution and the taxpayers of Illinois. We must make changes and elect candidates in November who understand and defend the law, and put the people of Illinois first, not Madigan and his faithful followers.”
Madigan's proposed budget came at a time when the state saw another month of high unemployment numbers in April which rose to 6.6 percent, one of the highest in the nation. Smith said the blame for the number falls squarely on the legislature in Springfield.
“Any legislator who calls himself a champion of the workers and middle class in this state should be ashamed,” she said. “There are fewer working people and the middle class is shrinking in a state that has everything to offer.”
While the numbers were bad, many sectors saw some positive job gains, specifically leisure and hospitality, education, and health services; however, manufacturing, information services and financial sectors all saw a sharp decline. While it is good that some industries saw gain, Smith said that every sector should have seen growth.
“It is good to have certain industries see an increase in hiring; but let's be honest, we should be gaining in every single sector,” she said. “Information services and financial services are industries that offer great opportunities for young college grads who will move on to places where those jobs are available. Manufacturing is down all over the country; but with all we have to offer as far as location and resources, we should be capturing those businesses looking for facilities in this country rather than overseas.”
Regarding college graduates, Illinois may see less of them as the state's universities and colleges are seeing a drop in enrollment for the following school year. Many prospective college students are looking elsewhere for their higher education because of the uncertainty of the budget, especially in regards to university funding. Smith, who is part of the school board in her district, said she understands just how hard and worrisome it is for students, especially concerning college.
"Illinois high school students understand the desperate situation here in Illinois regarding the budget and the funding for education,” she said. “Not only are Illinois state colleges already more expensive than those universities in surrounding states, but the support (for) grants and scholarships for students are diminishing. Enrollment will continue to drop at Illinois colleges unless we can provide more affordable tuition and help for those who are in need of financial assistance.”
Many students are enrolling in nearby states such as Indiana and Wisconsin because of affordable tuition, cheaper housing and better prospects. Students can save thousands of dollars attending out-of-state universities.
“Surrounding states are offering more to our Illinois students than we can provide; they are just more appealing and affordable,” Smith said. “As an Illinois resident paying out-of-state tuition, attending Indiana State University, a student can attend for about $19,000, including tuition and room and board. That same student would pay over $28,000 at Illinois State University. Our Illinois university costs are completely out of control."
Students are not the only group leaving in exodus. Businesses, noticing that the grass is greener on the other state, are relocating or setting up shop in nearby states because it is more financially feasible. Illinois is ranked the worst state in the Midwest for businesses, according to a survey done by Chief Executive Magazine, which also found that, among the CEOs surveyed, Illinois also ranked third in the nation as far as business unfriendliness.
Smith urged legislators to change this.
“Springfield must get serious about making Illinois business climate more competitive,” she said. “We have people in Springfield who want job opportunities, but give little consideration to the job creators. There are solutions. I am willing to sit down with any legislator who seriously wants to act on what we all know must be done to attract businesses — reform the entry into doing business in this state, reduce the tax burden and reform workers comp laws.”
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