In 1981, President Ronald Reagan said, “When we honor our flag we honor what we stand for as a Nation – freedom, equality, justice, and hope.”  In case you were wondering why you saw so many flags this week, June 14th was Flag Day.

Honoring our flag dates back to our own Revolutionary War.  The first President to proclaim Flag Day on June 14th was Woodrow Wilson in 1916.  Congress established National Flag Day on June 14th in 1946.  If you pass by a flag, take a moment to remember what it stands for and think about the brave men and women who fought so that flag might still wave.

One of the challenges in a legislative district as large as the 89th is its size.  The 89th District covers all or part of six counties in Northwestern Illinois.  Many folks in the 89th District from East Dubuque and Hanover to Chadwick and Milledgeville don’t have the same luxury of dropping in on the district office in Freeport as folks do in bigger cities.

That’s why I continue to hold mobile office hours throughout the 89th District every year.  This month I have scheduled the first mobile office hours of 2018 in Galena at the Visitor’s Center, in East Dubuque in the Public Library on June 21st, in Mount Carroll in the Courthouse Community Room, and in Lanark in the Public Library on June 22nd.  Others are in the works and we will issue news releases for each location with specifics to local news outlets and post details on our website and social media pages.

Constituents will have an opportunity to visit with knowledgeable staff and ask questions, and also obtain important information about fraud prevention, health care, end of life care, civil rights, and the legislative process.  My staff and I look forward to meeting you and helping in any way we can.

Future columns will continue to explore and expound on Illinois’ recently passed budget.  I believe the budget discussion in many ways extends beyond dollars and cents to reflect our principles and priorities.

In a commencement address at Hillsdale College in 2016, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas when speaking about how his upbringing shaped his principles, said, “If there was to be independence, self-sufficiency, or freedom, then we first had to understand, accept, and discharge our responsibilities.  The latter were the necessary (but not always sufficient) antecedents or precursors of the former.  The only guarantee was that if you did not discharge your responsibilities, there could be no independence, no self-sufficiency, and no freedom.”

Many of us can relate to Justice Thomas.  We share similar upbringings and hold many of the same principles.  My own journey included growing up in public housing, and working from an early age.  It included a hunger and determination to be sure the promise of America became a reality for me and my family.

That hunger drove me every day through my service in the US Army.  That determination drove me every day during my tenure as a Stephenson County Sheriff’s Deputy.  That hunger drove me to start my first business and many more.  That determination drives me every day to serve my customers and my constituents to the best of my ability.

I do not believe that we need budgets built on old, tired, failed agendas.  I do not believe we need Springfield bureaucrats and leadership writing a budget that tells us that they know better what’s best for us.

We need to move forward and leave behind the thinking that the best measure of government is the number of people “served”.  It’s thinking like that which led to the creation of almost 7,000 government bodies in Illinois.  Some are inefficient, wasteful and need to be eliminated.   
If Springfield ran McDonald’s, they would open a store in Death Valley because it is underserved, and people are entitled to enjoy McDonald’s wherever they may be.

I do agree with screenwriter David Milch, who wrote, “Every man’s entitled to hope.”  I believe everyone is entitled to hope.  I believe that the promise of America is that each of us has the hope and opportunity to fulfill our purpose and live with dignity.  It takes work.  It takes hard work.  In America, it can be done.

I look forward to discussing the budget in further detail in coming weeks.  It was President Lyndon Johnson who said, “You do not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harms it would cause if improperly administered.”

If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at and use the form to send me an e-mail.

During the period of June 15, 16, 17 and 18, 2018, it shall be legal for any person to fish in waters wholly or in part within the jurisdiction of the State, including the Illinois portion of Lake Michigan, without possessing a sport fishing license, salmon stamp or inland trout stamp.

Fishing Regulations visit

Fishing Info visit

Fish question email Fish Dept. at

Happy Father's Day Weekend! 
Rep. Stewart attends the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics with the Freeport Police Department, Stephenson County Sheriff's Police and the Regional Coordinator from the Rockford Police Department on Thursday, June 14th.

Many enjoyed the parades over the past few weeks, despite the sweltering heat on Memorial Day. Those who marched in Pecatonica’s Memorial Day Parade may have seen a Main Street mainstay, Pecatonica Hardware. Ted Kramer is the owner of Pecatonica Hardware. Ted has owned and operated his hardware store for 51 years. His hard work was recently honored by the website when they ranked Pecatonica Hardware in the Top 10 Best Hardware Stores in Illinois. Ted, you make Northern Illinois proud. Thank you for your hard work.

June is National Dairy Month. Beginning as National Milk Month in 1937, it was originally an effort to stabilize the demand for milk. Today, National Dairy Month is a celebration of the dairy industry’s history as well as a glimpse into its future.

Some may remember the dairy industry’s ad campaign, “Milk, it does a body good.” If only the same thing could be said of some of the decisions made by the Illinois General Assembly for the State of Illinois. The budget was not the only vote made by the General Assembly before it adjourned for the summer.

The Illinois House voted to approve House Resolution 1025. The resolution is an endorsement of amending the Illinois Constitution in order for the legislature to pass a progressive income tax. HR1025’s Chief Sponsor, Speaker Madigan, issued a statement after its passage, saying, “Today’s vote was a promise to taxpayers that as we continue working toward a fair tax in Illinois our focus will be on cutting taxes on the middle class…”

When was the last time Illinois had a permanent tax cut for any of our citizens? The resolution’s supporters want us to believe that raising taxes will stimulate our economy, and help expand small business. As I have written many times, Illinois families pay more in state and local taxes than any other state in the country. Still, our state is running massive budget deficits, dramatically underfunding pensions, and trailing the nation in economic growth by 60%.

Tax hikes yield poorer economic growth than tax cuts. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) compared the economic recovery following the Reagan tax cuts in 1982, and the recovery following the Obama tax increases in 2011. The US economy grew by over 4% annually after the Reagan tax cuts and by an average of 2% after the Obama tax hikes.

What if we need to increase revenue to pay for services? Shouldn’t we sacrifice some economic growth if only for the short term? ALEC also analyzed tax receipts after the Kennedy and Reagan tax cuts and compares them to the Obama administration tax hikes. After the Kennedy cuts, “state and local tax receipts grew by 65 percent..,” after the Reagan cuts, “the real increase was 35 percent...,” and after the Obama increases tax receipts “grew by a meager 6 percent.”

Raising taxes inhibits economic and tax receipt growth, plain and simple. In HR1025, the argument for a progressive tax is because our flat income tax is regressive, specifically benefiting the top 1% of Illinois wage earners. If the resolution’s supporters were truly committed to the top 1% paying their “fair share” in taxes why do Cook County property owners get a tax break? Should paying a “fair share” exclude property taxes?

We know that Illinois’ current economic development model benefits Chicagoland at the expense of rural communities. What is not commonly known is that a house in Stephenson, Jo Daviess, Winnebago, Carroll, Ogle, or Whiteside County pays property taxes on 33.3% of its assessed value. A Cook County resident pays based on 10% of their home’s assessed value, offering a massive tax cut to the millionaires and billionaires who live in Chicago.

What happens when Chicago doesn’t have enough tax money to pay for its schools? It gets money from Springfield. Where does the Springfield money come from? It comes from rural downstate Illinois. If House Democrats wanted the wealthy to pay their “fair share” in taxes they would start by requiring the rich Cook County residents to pay property taxes based on the same assessment ratio as the rest of us in Illinois.

It was Winston Churchill who said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Far too often, after delving deeper than campaign season rhetoric, we find the devil in the details. So what is the true motivation behind HR1025?

Majority Leader Representative Barbara Flynn Currie was one of the Chief Co-Sponsors of HR1025. Her remarks during debate indicate the resolution’s true intent. Decatur’s Herald-Review reported that, “Currie says the idea would equalize income distribution.”

Illinois has suffered enough from tired, failed policies. We do not need Chicago politicians trying to equalize anything. It is time for us to come together, work hard, abandon ideological blinders, and enact common sense solutions to grow our economy and move Illinois forward.

If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at and use the form to send me an e-mail.

I was privileged this week to welcome to the Capitol the Ambassador of Spain to the United States, His Excellency Pedro Morenes

I was also privileged this week to welcome to the Capitol the Consul General of the Peoples Republic of China, Hong Lei.

It was the great UCLA men’s basketball Coach John Wooden who said, “The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own example.” Several area student-athletes set a tremendous example at the IHSA Class 1A State Track and Field Finals.

Carmen DeVries from Lena-Winslow/Pearl City claimed the State title in the 400m dash, and also finished 3rd in the triple jump. Emily Offenheiser from Stockton/Warren took home 1st in discus, and 2nd in shot put. Milledgeville’s Rebecca Waite finished 3rd in the 200m dash.

And last weekend, in the Boys Class 1A State Track and Field Finals, Forreston’s AJ Christenson took first place in the 300 meter Intermediate Hurdles and in the 110 meter High Hurdles. Lena-Winslow/Pearl City’s relay team of Ty Chrisman, Isaiah Bruce, Gaige Schwartz, and Rahveon Valentine took 2nd place in the 4x100 meter relay, and 3rd place in the 4x200.

Thomas Edison said, “There is no substitute for hard work.” Our student athletes are proof of that. Congratulations to all our state competitors and finalists for your hard work and success this season.

If Albert Einstein’s words, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity,” are true, then Illinois faces tremendous opportunity. Last week I outlined a few of the challenges confronting our state. The legislature adjourned this week, and we have had an opportunity to witness the response to our fiscal crisis.

The Illinois General Assembly passed House Bills 109 (Budget) and 3342 (Budget Implementation) on Thursday, and people should be concerned about the difficulty it will bring for five reasons.

1. Pensions: The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago pegs Illinois pension debt at $111 billion, according to the Illinois Policy Institute. Moody’s Investor’s Service estimates our pension debt at $250 billion. Why the disparity?

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) explains the difference between the Chicago Fed and Moody’s estimates in the 10th edition of their report Rich States/Poor States. States and organizations estimate pension debt based on how much money is available to invest at a specific rate of return. The higher the rate of return, the lower the pension debt is.

Organizations like the Chicago Fed are most likely using what the ALEC report calls, “the simple, unweighted average discount rate” of 7.37%. Moody’s is most likely using a more conservative rate of return, similar to the ones used by the Hoover Institute, or the ALEC report’s own rate of 2.344%. Both Hoover and ALEC estimate Illinois pensions to be less than 30% funded.

The new budget does not address underfunded pensions, nor have any efforts been made to reform pensions in order to reduce the debt burden.

2. Unpaid Bills: As I mentioned in last week’s column, Illinois’ total backlog of unpaid bills is topping $204 billion. This amounts to over $41,000 in debt per Illinois family. Nothing in HB109 or HB3342 addresses how Illinois will begin paying its bills on time and the total of what we owe vendors as of today stands at $7.04 billion.

3. Unbalanced: This makes the same $300 million assumption of the Thompson Center’s sale value. It also includes over $600 million in “interfund borrowing”. Such “borrowing” is a way to cover spending when tax receipts can’t. Lastly, the estimate of increased revenue for the next fiscal year is almost double our average economic growth, which puts the budget out of balance by as much as $1.5 billion, according to the Illinois Policy Institute.

4. Waste: This budget appropriates over $180 million from the “Road Fund” for former President Obama’s Presidential Center. It is unclear what the money is for, or how it will be used. One legislative group is being allocated $50,000 to hold a national convention. It is unclear if it is the only legislative group receiving these funds, and if so, why it qualifies, what the process was to qualify, etc…

5. Time to Review:
JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings saga is 1216 pages long. HB 109 is 1245 pages long! The Senate had the bill for 5 hours before voting. The House had it for 4 hours before voting. Combined, the General Assembly took less time to read the budget than the total run time of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. How can we be expected to make the right decisions if we don’t take the right amount of time to consider them?

Fuzzy budgeting, wasteful spending, mounting deficits, snap decisions, and a backlog of unpaid bills don’t make for a successful business. They don’t make for a successful state either. These are some of the reasons I chose to vote no. We need a better process to get better results and I will provide more budget information in future columns.

Thankfully, something good happened in Springfield last week. The General Assembly passed Senate Bill 3105. The legislation, “permits a child protective investigator of a Child Protective Service Unit to request assistance from local law enforcement officers”. This provides DCFS investigators with some measure of protection to avoid being viciously assaulted, as investigator Pam Knight was last September, which ultimately resulted in her death.

If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at and use the form to send me an e-mail.