Even GOP offers support
By CARL GREEN
Springfield IL – Governor J.B. Pritzker’s inauguration-week pledges that downstate and southern Illinois will not be overlooked as his administration begins to rebuild the state government were well-received by area legislators, including at least one Republican.
“We must bring a renaissance to downstate Illinois, which has been deprived of some basic resources for education and business-building that are taken for granted elsewhere in our state,” Pritzker said in his inaugural address.
He reiterated the idea in an interview with the Belleville News-Democrat.
“Downstate Illinois has often been left out or at least left behind,” Pritzker said in the interview. “I committed during the campaign that I want to create jobs in downstate Illinois, and I’m going to do that.”
With about 40 percent of the state’s population living outside the Chicago area, state investment needs to be spread around, he said.
“Obviously, there are many more roads across the rest of state,” he said in the interview. “So we’ve got make sure we’ve got enough money to take care of those roads.
“I’m very committed to creating jobs and building up infrastructure and job opportunities and businesses outside of just Cook County and the collar counties.”
WORKFORCE TRAINING AND JOB CREATION
Pritzker came to Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville last week to sign an executive order to evaluate current workforce training efforts as part of a report that will identify growth industries and review of how effective state and federal programs have been.
The report will also include recommendations for use of resources in disenfranchised communities. One option being considered is development of a logistics and transportation hub in East St. Louis.
“We’re going to make sure we get the most bang out of our buck with our workforce development dollars so that every part of our state is fully embracing innovative strategies that lead to good jobs for our residents,” Pritzker said at the signing.
‘OVERLOOKED, NEGLECTED’ BY STATE’S LEADERS
Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), a Pritzker transition adviser, said Pritzker is sincere about wanting to work with downstate Illinois.
“The people of downstate Illinois have been overlooked and neglected by the state’s leaders for years,” Manar said. “I’m thrilled the governor sees the same promise and resilience that I see in them.
“Central Illinois is filled with good people in great communities where there are real problems to be solved,” he said. “I look forward to holding him to his promises to prioritize resources for central and southern Illinois.”
GOP LEGISLATORS HOPEFUL
Senator Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg), who also serves on Pritzker’s job creation and economic opportunity transition committee, told the Southern Illinoisan newspaper in Carbondale he was encouraged by Pritzker’s efforts to reach across party lines.
“I’ve had numerous conversations with the governor about Southern Illinois. Projects in my district, like the Cairo river port terminal,” Fowler said. “I know he’s got that on his radar.”
Fowler said he remained open to Pritzker’s plans for a graduated income tax.
“There are going to be tough votes coming up, but I know compromise is part of the equation,” Fowler said. “I’m very encouraged by the ways he’s reached across party lines.”
Senator Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo) told the Southern Illinoisan that he appreciated Pritzker’s attitude of bipartisanship, even if he didn’t agree with the new governor’s policies.
“Almost all of the policy proposals that he outlined are things I’ll probably be on the opposite side of,” Schimpf noted. “But when he talks about listening to everybody, as long as you come to the table with good faith, I think that’s the way the process is supposed to work.”
Representative Dave Severin (R-Benton) of Benton, said he was pleased with Pritzker’s emphasis on returning vocational training to public high schools.
“The success of southern Illinois, in my opinion, is going to depend on getting vocational training back in schools,” Severin said. “There’s no doubt the governor is in tune with that.”
A CHANCE TO WORK TOGETHER
Representative Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea), chairman of the House Labor and Commerce Committee, said the coming months will be an opportunity for both parties to work together in good faith on the state’s problems.
“It is critically important that we utilize this as a time to unite both sides of the aisle, to identify shared interests and priorities, which will help us address the diverse challenges facing our state,” he said.
“I am highly encouraged by early efforts of the incoming administration to engage both Republican and Democratic leaders in exploring plans to make Illinois functional for those who call it home… supporting access to health care, delivering on education… creating jobs and economic opportunities.”