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Lincoln Daily News
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Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson speaks out regarding state budget          Send a link to a friend

To the editor:

If the citizens of Illinois needed further proof that our state government is failing us and change is needed -- the ongoing state budget crisis will be all the evidence needed. It is painfully clear that the state needs a new direction with bipartisan cooperation and solutions, and ethics reform that ends the "pay-to-play" and influence peddling.

As Illinois came perilously close to government shutdown under the state's one-party rule, the Democrat leadership engaged in political games and one-upmanship. But the gridlock opened the door for Republican legislators to bring about a reasonable, bipartisan state budget that funds vital state services without raising taxes. The budget belatedly passed by the General Assembly is not perfect -- but it prioritizes spending, fulfills our commitments and increases school funding without raising taxes!

Now the governor has removed hundreds of community initiatives from that budget -- selectively rewarding those he needs on his side while punishing those who disagree with his agenda. Funds for the unspecified spending earmarked by Senate President Emil Jones -- a Blagojevich ally -- were left untouched, leaving millions of taxpayer dollars to Jones' whim. In the past, Sen. Jones has spent taxpayer money for such questionable priorities as hip-hop exercise classes and a special grant to the sister of his closest legislative ally.

While protecting Jones' pet projects, Blagojevich cut funding for desperately needed flood control and school construction projects, initiatives that may actually improve our schools, and firefighters' equipment. Ironically, while saying he wants to expand health care, Blagojevich cut Medicaid funding for the poor, senior citizens, veterans and the disabled. He rearranged state spending to pay for a multibillion-dollar new program that has twice been overwhelmingly rejected by the legislature.

[to top of second column in this letter]


But the final chapter on the state budget has yet to be written. The legislature has an opportunity to restore the bipartisan state budget. But Senate President Emil Jones has vowed to block that effort, preventing the 59 elected senators who represent Illinois' 12 million citizens from taking a vote. Jones has also blocked efforts to enact tough ethics reforms that end "pay-to-play," questionable contracts and political cronyism.

In addition, Illinois must also address its crumbling infrastructure this legislative session. There has not been a comprehensive program since 1999 -- and it shows. We desperately need an affordable program that will build and fix roads, bridges, schools, and our mass transit system -- and put people to work in Illinois!

If state government is to find workable solutions to these and other problems, our citizens must demand change from the state's most powerful leaders. We must have bipartisan cooperation and a sincere desire to work together for the good of Illinois.

Frank Watson
Senate Republican leader

[Posted August 28, 2007]

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