Today, we celebrate and remember the life and the achievements of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King was one of the nation’s foremost advocates for racial equality, but even more, he was a champion of the American dream, in its fullest and richest sense.
The American dream is defined by one source as “the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.” I wonder today whether Dr. King would recognize the American dream in Illinois.
Illinois is widely considered the most corrupt and the most bankrupt in the Union. The General Assembly has increased taxes and fees on workers with nothing additional to show for those increases. The government continues to load additional legal and financial burdens on businesses trying to operate in Illinois. Success appears more based on who you know, rather than on how hard you work.
The numbers are bad. Over 2 million Illinoisans are on food stamps. One Illinois resident leaves the state every 10 minutes. According to Gallup, fully half of the people of Illinois would move if they could. We all know neighbors and friends who are moving out of state, searching for a better job, lower cost of living, or friendlier business climate.
In the midst of this crisis, I was just sworn in as a new state representative.
The way I look at it, things are never quite as good as they seem, but they’re never quite as bad as they seem either. The upshot right now is that the people of Illinois are ready and willing to take a different course. Folks understand – and even appreciate – the straightforward honesty of a Governor Rauner, who recently told Illinoisans that “shared sacrifice” will be necessary to save our state.
Just like Illinois families and businesses have had to tighten their belts, our state government now has to do the same. The General Assembly waited too long to address the problems facing us, making the solutions more painful than they would have been, if responsible action had been taken earlier.
Some have questioned the sanity of those of us going to Springfield. But I know that we can turn this state around.
For my part, after being sworn in, I went onto the House floor, found my desk, and for my first official act, signed paperwork rejecting the pension that comes with legislative service in Illinois. Yes, I’m entitled to it by law, but we have a part-time citizen legislature in Illinois. That part-time work shouldn’t come with a guaranteed pension for life.
This is the 99th General Assembly. The next will be the 100th General Assembly, which will usher in the 200th anniversary of Illinois’ statehood, in 2018. If we start right now with substantive and significant reforms, we can put ourselves on track to becoming the best state in the country to live, work, and raise a family. We can make our 200th anniversary more than just a commemoration of some long ago act but a great celebration of the revival of the American dream in the Land of Lincoln.
Let’s get to work!