Cutting The Red Tape

***Guest Column***

A February article of Crain’s Chicago Business stated that Illinois ranked 46th out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. in non-farm payroll growth. Our ranking is falling among other states in median household income growth, and the state actually had a net loss of jobs in 2015.

Anyone who has lived in Northwest Illinois for more than a few years isn’t surprised by any of these numbers. We have observed the ebb and flow of our local economy, and many of us have experienced firsthand the pain of watching industry leave the area. To blame this on any single factor would be unfair and incorrect, but there is no question that the State of Illinois has done little to positively impact our region’s plight.

Most of you know that this isn’t simply just anecdotal evidence; this is our region’s history. But you didn’t elect me to reminisce on what was and what could have been. You want to know what I am doing to help turn around our region. As I often say, one of the reasons I ran for office was to bring a small business perspective to the state legislature. To that end, I have been working to eliminate burdensome regulations that negatively impact our region by hurting our small businesses. So I am encouraged to bring you some good news from Springfield out of the Governor’s office.
By executive order, The Governor has announced a “Cutting the Red Tape” initiative creating the Illinois Competitiveness Council. The purpose of this independent panel will be to seek out and advise on how to reduce and eliminate harmful and cumbersome unnecessary government regulations. With Illinois struggling to compete against other states regionally and nationwide, it is imperative that we become proactive in our quest to make Illinois a great place to own and operate a business.

When archaic rules and regulations do little to provide anything other than a reason not to stay in Illinois, those rules can and should be eliminated. The Governor called on the new council to eliminate four million pages of paperwork that must be filled out by private businesses in a ten year period. This alone will save Illinoisans $250 million, and that’s just the beginning. There are so many unnecessary regulations, that some of the examples are laughable.

As cited in the Governor’s executive order, “(Individuals) who groom harness horses to pull sulky carts at racetracks must be licensed under Section 502.690 of the rules of the Illinois Racing Board, even though the last full-time Illinois harness racetrack went out of business almost a year ago. Furthermore, the license for a harness racehorse groom is legally separate from the license for a thoroughbred racehorse groom, and both of these licenses are separated from all of the other categories of licenses overseen by the State of Illinois.” Huh?

While I’m not entirely certain I completely comprehend what Section 502.690 means, I’m entirely certain that it is unnecessary. Small businesses can and often are decimated by such red tape. Anyone who has ever owned or been employed by a small business knows this to be true, and it’s about time someone is doing something about it.

I am extremely proud of all the small businesses that make up the bulk of the economy in Northwest Illinois. Large companies may come and go in a global market, but small businesses are the bedrock of our community. These hundreds and hundreds of small businesses in our area are hindered by regulations that only serve to stifle growth and in turn limit expansion and new hiring. It is no surprise that this new commission fills me with a sense of anticipation and optimism, because this region needs more good paying jobs. If we can make Illinois more competitive, our region will inevitably thrive.

When the government becomes too entangled in the affairs of small businesses, I can’t help but think of a quote I so often recall by Ronald Reagan, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815/232-0774 or e-mail us at repstewart@gmail.com. You can also visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com or on Facebook.