January 5th – Guest Column

Thank you! Last month, I sent out my legislative update and included a survey covering important issues we all face in Illinois. Hundreds of you returned the survey either by mail or online and they are still coming in! Many of you sent personal comments, letters, and cards as well. I am reviewing them all, and am both humbled and grateful to read your thoughts.

I also understand there were some challenges with the online survey. I am working with our House web development staff to work on improvements for the future. It was George Washington who said, In a free and republican government, you cannot restrain the voice of the multitude. The government is us; we are the government, you and I. For a government to be successful we need to elect good people, who know when to stick to their guns and how to accomplish the will of the people.

That is why surveys like the one many of you completed are so important. Our state leaders need to avoid the Springfield echo chamber and gain perspective by reaching out and listening to voters. Leadership is better when it is informed. I want to know the issues important to you so I can better represent your needs in Springfield.

Public service does not come without criticism. It is part of the job description. To some, the survey could have been more specific or allowed greater detail. It is important to note this survey was an opportunity to obtain a general idea of the issues that are important to you, and to open future discussions about them.

One of the most significant issues in both parts of the survey was taxes. It was a Republican Supreme Court Justice from Massachusetts, Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said, I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization. What I often wonder is whether the taxes we currently pay are buying us a more civilized society?

I am absolutely certain that we pay enough in taxes. Not only is the state and local tax burden worse for the average family in Illinois than in California or Massachusetts, it is worse than every other state in the country. Over 70% of survey respondents agree their state income taxes are too high and that the recent tax hike should be repealed.

Even more people believe taxes should be reformed to reduce the property tax burden. Property tax reform was the number one survey issue, registering 87% support. We need to reform our tax system to encourage property ownership. We need tax reform to protect senior citizens and prevent them from being taxed out of their homes.

Many responses also articulated the understanding that the state needs revenue to pay for essential services, to reduce our debt, and to balance the budget. I agree. The problem with Springfield is that Speaker Madigans control accomplishes none of those things, even after raising our taxes.

Welfare reform ranked second in terms of support. 84% of survey responses supported reforming our welfare system. Those that were opposed were overwhelmingly opposed to drug testing for welfare recipients, either on constitutional or financial grounds (arguing that the costs outweighed the savings). What we can agree on is that there are far too many people relying on welfare and we need a growing economy to create jobs that will help people lift themselves and their children from government dependence to independence.

That is why creating new jobs and retaining the ones we have and adding resources like targeted TIF districts and enterprise zones are so important. Tax credits like the Rivers Edge tax credits and my proposed Lincoln Douglas debate site tax credits will help attract new businesses that will create jobs throughout Northern Illinois.

It is a New Year, and we will have ample opportunity to discuss the issues in greater depth. I am looking forward to the work ahead moving Illinois in the right direction. Thank you again for taking the time to complete the survey. If you have not yet completed it, please visit my website http://www.repbrianstewart.com/. You can reach the survey by clicking the 3rd icon down on the right-hand side titled, 2017 Session Wrap-Up Survey.

As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815/232-0774 or e-mail us at stewart@ilhousegop.org. You can also contact me by visiting my website at www.repbrianstewart.com or on Facebook.

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