Republicans in the Illinois House announced their legislative priorities Wednesday, a list they say will help “reshape our state for the better.”
Part of the GOP’s “Reimagine Illinois” platform, the focus is on four “common sense” areas: rooting out corruption in the statehouse, instituting fiscally responsible leadership, growing jobs and the state’s economy and ensuring public safety.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said the state’s voters are tired of “hollow statements and lies” on issues such as ethics reform and property tax relief “year after year by the Illinois Democrat Party machine.”
“They’re done with having their taxes raised and getting nothing back in return, they are done feeling unsafe in their neighborhoods —clearly a problem right now — they are done with corrupt politicians ravaging our state’s finances for their own benefits,” the Western Springs Republican said.
“It’s difficult to imagine how our beloved state can move forward with the same party making the same promises, and the same mistakes, but Republicans want Illinoisans to know that there is an alternative, and it’s time to reimagine Illinois.”
Durkin was joined at the Wednesday news conference by state Rep. Michael Murphy of Springfield and state Rep. Avery Bourne of Raymond, two of the Republicans the GOP leader tapped for the platform’s working group.
Murphy said the legislative priorities will help the state “re-find our way.”
“We need new actionable policy initiatives to reshape our state for the better,” Murphy said. “Illinois used to be a powerhouse. I remember when I was a child, we were not only a powerhouse in the Midwest, but in the entire nation. It’s time to re-find our way and that will come with ‘Reimagine Illinois.’”
Bourne said the platform includes bills that Republicans have proposed, and pushed for, for years.
The Raymond Republican said there are anti-corruption bills she believes the House can pass with a bipartisan majority that would expose and eliminate conflicts of interest and ban members of the General Assembly from lobbying.
On the budgeting front, Bourne said the Republican platform focuses on making sure spending plans are “truly balanced, mandating transparency in the budgeting process,” including a 72-hour waiting period before the state begins spending money, saving the state’s pension system and tackling government inefficiency.
Bourne pointed to eliminating over-regulation and mandates, and creating better apprenticeship programs to train people for jobs as a way to build jobs in the state. On public safety, Bourne said there needs to be a “back the badge” program and either a reform or repeal of the state’s FOID system among other things.
Durkin said he’s already talked to Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Democratic House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch about taking up pension reform this session and conveyed that, should the Democrats want to address the state’s fiscal woes, they “will have a partner in the House Republicans.”
“It’s up to them,” Durkin said. “They have the agenda, it’s up to them whether or not they want to take on, and go back and address the pension disaster that we have,” Durkin said. “Out of every dollar, 25 cents of it goes towards our pension systems, and this is going to get higher and higher until we do something. It’s not going to be solved by putting a constitutional amendment forward that’s going to have a graduated tax that’s going to fund our pensions, it’s going to have to be reformed within the system.”
Last month, Welch voiced support for attempting to change the state income tax structure from a flat-rate to a graduated-rate system “at some point” – a shift that Pritzker failed to get voters to sign on to last year.
But Welch suggested tying the proposal to something specific, such as addressing pension obligations, “as opposed to just asking voters to allow us to go to the progressive tax.”
“I think that’s something that we probably should really consider doing, because that’s a proven model that works,” Welch said. “Tell the voters exactly how you’re going to spend this new money, and they may trust us more.”
Durkin said Republicans aren’t “the party of no — we’re prepared to move forward.
“We want this state to survive, we want this state to thrive,” Durkin said.