Chesney Guest Column: Illinois Needs More “Leading by Example”

On Tuesday, July 30th, I was honored to be joined by over 4 dozen taxpayers for my most recent “Pizza & Politics” event at the iconic Timmerman’s Supper Club overlooking the Upper Mississippi River Valley in East Dubuque.

This event included a legislative update about what really happened in Springfield during the Spring Session as well as an extended question & answer session.  I strive for these events to address the state issues that citizens want to talk about and bring forward.  As always, 89th District taxpayers were on-point about some of the biggest challenges facing our State.  Attendees raised questions about reining in state spending, addressing unfunded pension liabilities and the balance of resources between regions in a State as diverse as Illinois.

I was proud to answer questions and provide candid responses.  This is what I promised I would do in this job before being sworn in as State Representative and it is my sincere honor to follow-through on that personal contact and communication in the communities I represent. 

The truth is, East Dubuque’s been good to me.  The questions raised indicate why.  It is not just because I have spent the time talking with these taxpayers at their doorsteps, but also because they are very tuned in to the challenges facing Illinois.  From the crest of the bluff at Timmerman’s, it feels like one might be able to hit a golf ball into Iowa or Wisconsin.  This proximity to our borders has made East Dubuque and other border community residents keenly observant of things like tax policies in Illinois.  When not doing business in Illinois means only a five-minute drive, you tend to notice these issues more acutely.  You tend to notice the gasoline tax increase more and tend to be even more worried about other major shifts in our income and sales tax policies.

These concerns break way to ask, is the extra money I am paying being used efficiently and effectively?  Illinois residents, whether in border communities or those with fewer nearby options inner-state, are craving for their public servants to lead by example to prove to overtaxed skeptics that Illinois can change its ways.

One of the first votes I took was against a push to pay executive agency directors more money than the over six-digit salaries they receive under law.  Governor Pritzker later came through and boosted their pay further through his own “private funds”. 

When the Governor calls for protecting our most vulnerable, as he often does, I assume he means the disabled, senior citizens, young families and those who have served our country as Veterans.  However, the shine wore away quickly on protecting the vulnerable, most of which are on fixed incomes, when he proposed to raise gas taxes, vehicle registration fees, sales taxes and a bevy of other proposed taxes to fund a massive Capital Spending Plan heavily lobbied by special interest groups.  These regressive taxes certainly disproportionately effect those on fixed incomes.  I defiantly voted NO; Pritzker cheered FOR MORE.

The icing on the cake was to sign a $1,600 pay raise for legislators.  I debated returning this pay raise to the state coffers.  However, when I personally oppose Illinois taxpayer dollars going to abortion services (including late-term), going to services for non-residents, and addressing urban issues at the expense of the rest of Illinois, I cannot abide this voluntary use of these dollars.

Instead, I will be donating my legislative pay raise, to area organizations that reflect Northwest Illinoisans values.  Fund recipients will be released in the coming month, but I have designated five organizations where these funds can be far better spent than allowing them to be spent by bureaucrats and tax-and-spend progressive legislators.

Leading by example means that you make do with less in recognition of the sacrifices of those around you.  Our “Northwest Illinois Values” mean our parents taught us better than the example we are seeing among the top leadership in our State.  I will continue to remember the meaning of “public service” and do my very best to personally and professionally lead by example.