Guest Column - January 13


On Wednesday, January 11th, I had the honor of being sworn in to the 100th General Assembly. I couldn’t be more proud to represent Northwest Illinois in Springfield.  As your legislator, every decision I make is guided by one principal: “What can I do to make Illinois – and specifically Northwest Illinois – a better place to live, work and to raise a family?”  That was the guiding principal that former Representative Sacia carried before me, and that legacy was passed to him by former Representative Lawfer.
 
As many of you know – and as I mentioned in this column previously – Ron Lawfer retired from this earth and took his place on what I’m sure is a farm on the outskirts of heaven.  He had three passions: his family, farming, and Northwest Illinois.  He did so much for this region and for farming, and his legacy will live on for generations.  One of my proudest moments to date in the Illinois General Assembly was this past week when, with his family present, I had the privilege to recognize Ron Lawfer’s legacy with House Resolution 1558 in honor of the man who had such a big heart for our little corner of Illinois.
 
That moment, and the swearing in ceremony the next day, caused me to give considerable thought to the position that the citizens of the 89th District have afforded me.  It certainly isn’t a privilege that I ever take lightly, because I represent 108,879 of my friends and neighbors.  I appreciate each and every one of you, even if you don’t agree with a word I say.  And whether you agree with me or you disagree with me, don’t forget to keep sending me e-mails and letters.

In fact, hundreds of you have reached out to me about one issue in particular: the state budget crisis.  Many of you know that I share in your frustration.  As a business owner, I can tell you from experience that budgets aren’t fun, but if you don’t have a budget then you don’t have a business.  It really is that simple.  But if you have a “budget” that takes in far less money than you pay out, then you may as well not have a budget or a company at all.  The only acceptable budget is a balanced budget, and an unbalanced budget isn’t worth the paper upon which it is written.
 
There is no dispute that difficult decisions are on the horizon, so now we only have one question: do we get it right this time or do we kick the can down the road one last time?  The sad reality is – I’m not even sure that we are able to kick the can one more time.  We’ve filled the can with so many “IOU’s” that the can is ready to burst.  At this point, we are almost literally paying off one credit card with another.  That’s not a long term solution, that’s just pathetic!
 
To say that I’m “fed up” is an understatement.  Political malpractice of this proportion should in fact be criminal.  The mistakes, the IOU’s, the empty promises, and the unfunded “good ideas” have snowballed for the past quarter century.  Now we have to decide whether to run away or to stop the snowball before it triggers an avalanche… if you can’t tell, I’m extremely passionate about getting this right.  I have too much respect for you and too much love for this region than to give you anything other than my honest assessment of the cold hard truth.
 
That’s the bad news.  But who would I be to give you only bad news without any good news?  So here it is: change is in the air.  The mistakes of the past quarter century are still indelibly present in the 100th General Assembly, but a resurgent appetite for bi-partisan cooperation is even more present today than at any time in recent history.  I have confidence that change will ultimately triumph over more of the same.  Rank and file members on both sides of the aisle want to do the right thing, and I truly believe that we are close to seeing that happen.  Political posturing has all but worn out its welcome, and now it’s time to buckle down and do our jobs. 
 
As someone once said, “We campaign in poetry, but we govern in prose.” When we consider the daunting challenge that lies ahead of us, it’s easy to see that there’s nothing pleasant about it.  But it needs to be done.  In the end, I think we can all agree that rhetoric needs to be set aside so that we can do the right thing for Illinois.

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.
 
 

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