The delegation of downstate Illinois representatives was sworn in to office on Wednesday — and looking ahead to some challenges.
Among them were Katie Stuart, a Democratic representative from Edwardsfville; Moncia Bristow, a Democratic representative from Alton, and Andy Manar, a Democratic Senator from Bunker Hill. Here are statements from each.
Following her swearing in for the 101st General Assembly today, state Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, issued a statement highlighting her priorities to reduce the tax burden and fight for Metro East’s working families, cut perks for legislators and fight for fair funding for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
“Many working families in the Metro East are being crushed by an immense tax burden, and it isn’t right that families that have been in Illinois for generations feel like they can’t afford to stay here. I will continue my work for property tax reform and expand tax exemptions for seniors, veterans and middle class families. I am also a strong advocate for a fair tax structure because I believe it is time to make millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share and relieve the pressure on the middle class. Middle class families are already paying more than their fair share, which is why I refused to support a Chicago-led state income tax increase.
“As an educator, I have seen firsthand the way that an investment in education is an investment into our future. Unfortunately, the mass teacher shortage in Illinois is lowering the quality of education that children in our state are getting, and I am determined to work with other lawmakers to find a solution that attracts the best and brightest teachers to Illinois schools.
“Ensuring that Southern Illinois University Edwardsville receives the fair funding that it deserves is also a top priority of mine. SIUE has proven to be a bright spot in our state university system and now has an enrollment that outpaces the Carbondale campus. While other Illinois universities struggle with declining enrollment, SIUE thrives. That necessitates further state investment in the educational gem we have in our own backyard – a fair share for SIUE.
“I look forward to returning to Springfield as our voice for the Metro East and representing our families who just want to work hard and get ahead, send their kids to good schools, raise their families in strong communities and feel secure in their retirement. I will work hard to lead serious reforms to lift up our families.”
State Rep. Monica Bristow, D-Alton, issued the following statement after being sworn in to represent the 111th District of Illinois on Wednesday:
“It is an honor and privilege to serve the people of the Riverbend region, and it is not a responsibility that I take lightly. I greatly appreciate the trust that the people of the 111th district have put in me, and this year marks a new start to Illinois government. One that will help support our middle class families, protect workers and small businesses, and provide real solutions to real problems.
“My focus remains on ensuring that we have a strong local economy, and I will continue to put forth efforts that prioritize local companies and employees over foreign or out of state corporations. Errors from the past administration have cost Illinois thousands of jobs and damaged critical services that people in our state rely on. I intend to work with my colleagues, both Republican and Democrat, to enact commonsense solutions that help grow our region and better Illinois as a whole.”
“We must get our fiscal house in order, which is the critical first step in transforming our state into a place that welcomes businesses and provides them with the resources to prosper. Our tax dollars need to remain in Illinois and be put towards the services and programs that Illinois families rely on, like education, our healthcare systems, and public safety. We also must address the opioid epidemic that has ravaged downstate Illinois and claimed countless lives. I, along with my Metro East colleagues, am continuing to work with local leaders on comprehensive solutions to help end this crisis.
“None of these issues have easy solutions and will require difficult decisions. After several years of the can being kicked down the road, we must all work together to help solve the problems that our state faces. I stand ready with my colleagues of the 101st General Assembly to make those decisions to make Illinois a better place to live and work in.”
Job creation in downstate Illinois, K-12 and higher education, and responsible spending by state government will continue to be priorities for State Senator Andy Manar, who was sworn in for his third term today at the Capitol.
“It’s a new day in Springfield with fresh faces and new ideas after four years of partisan gridlock,” said Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who was the driving force behind school funding reform and is chairman of a key Senate budget committee.
“I plan to continue pressing for fair school funding, desperately needed job creation in central Illinois and protections for rural health care. And I intend to continue reaching across the aisle to my Republican colleagues so we can make good things happen for downstate residents together.”
Among the highlights of Senate inauguration day was Senate President John Cullerton’s spotlight on a unique workforce training program through Richland Community College in Decatur that’s putting people to work. Courtney Carson, who oversees the program, and Chris Valdez, president of the college, were guests of Manar and the Senate president during the inauguration.
The program, which received a $1.5 million state grant in 2018, aims to give workers specific skills needed by employers, but also the basic, essential skills that workers need to get their foot in the door at good-paying jobs – things like punctuality, appropriate attire for interviews and professional behavior in the workplace.
The program is a partnership among the community college, employers and local and state officials. It is projected to result in 225 new jobs in Decatur. Cullerton called for replicating the program throughout Illinois.
“I want to expand the program statewide. I want to see it work in Danville and Rockford, the Quad-Cities and southern Illinois, Chicago’s West Side and the south suburbs,” Cullerton said.
“I want to see it expand to train Illinois workers for solar, wind and other renewable energy industries. If you want to bring businesses to Illinois, offer them workers who are second to none. And together, they will make Illinois better.”
Manar, a former mayor and elected county board official, was first elected to the Illinois Senate in 2012. He represents the 48th Senate District, which stretches from the east side of Springfield to Decatur in the north, spanning south into Christian and Montgomery counties and portions of Macoupin and northern Madison counties.