The governor outlined his budget proposal this past week and like many of my colleagues, I was disappointed that it included more spending. After passing a tax increase - one that I did not vote for, it is simply irresponsible to put any new revenue towards anything until our pile of unpaid bills are taken care of first. That is what it's going to take to balance the budget. Vendors in our district are owed more than $54.5 million and many will be forced to lay people off or move out of the
state if they are not paid soon. We owe it to our schools, hospitals, prisons and other vendors to pay our bills first before any new spending.
I was also disappointed in the types of cuts that the Governor laid out in his budget, such as eliminating the Franklin County Methamphetamine Project and the deep cuts to education transportation. Meth addiction is a deadly and severe problem and this program has had a significant impact on Franklin County as well as the surrounding areas. We cannot afford to put the safety and health of the members of our communities in jeopardy during times like these. Schools in rural areas of the state,
like ours, will also feel the impact of the $93 million in statewide cuts to transportation reimbursement. Our local school districts are already waiting on millions of dollars in late payments and this will add to that burden.
Although I was disappointed about the added spending in the proposal, there was still some encouraging news regarding job creation in Illinois. I was pleased to see that our state created 46,300 jobs last year, which was best in the Midwest and third-best in the country. By attracting new businesses to our state and encouraging companies to grow and expand, we are sending a message that we are open for business and looking to become a leader in exports. By increasing exports, more of our waterways and port districts will be put to use and see an increased amount of traffic. This week, a bill designed to put people in our
district back to work and keep a major company here in Southern Illinois passed the Senate and now sits in the House. I hope they will take quick action and send it to the governor immediately. Senate Bill 4 is designed to allow Continental Tire, and other tire manufacturers, to take advantage of the Auto EDGE Tax Credit offered by our state. The bill will create around 400 new full-time jobs and keep at least 250 other jobs at the tire plant. While Continental Tire is potentially looking to expand in other states, this incentive will level the playing field here in Illinois and keep people working.
The bottom line is that we must continue to look at responsible places to cut spending and pay our bills before we can spend any more. I look forward to working with the my colleagues in the Senate over the next few months to find a solution to pay our bills, put people back to work and fix the state budget.
- Senate President and Speaker of the House Call Joint Session To Address The Budget
- Senator Koehler Reacts to the Governor’s State-of-the-State Address
- Proposal will give the people of Illinois unprecedented access to the budget process
- Link Encourages Input On State Budget
- Hutchinson Advances Measure Creating Tax Incentives for Businesses
Years served: 2001-2003 (House); 2003 - Present (Senate)
Committee assignments: Committee of the Whole; Insurance; Labor (Chairperson); Telecommunications & Technology; Transportation; Consumer Protection; Trans. Subcommittee on Amendments (Sub-Chairperson).
Biography: Born January 4, 1945, in Anna, Illinois. Full-time state legislator; former farmer and businessman; past chairman, Franklin County Board; former member, Franklin - Williamson Human Services Board; current member, Southern Illinois Workforce Man-Tra-Con Board, Operating Engineers and Laborers' International unions.