State Sen. Jason Barickman visited Iroquois County Monday.
He stopped by several places around the county, talking with people about what has been going on in Springfield. He stopped by the Times-Republic office Monday afternoon. Later he was at a couple of events in Ashkum and also in Crescent City.
He said work is being done in Springfield, with partisanship encumbering that work early on. Later in the spring session, he said, things did get better, but he’s not sure how 2020 will go for a number of reasons.
“It was a tough spring,” he said. “There was a changed dynamic with a turnover in the office of governor. Moving from Republican Bruce Rauner to Democrat J.B. Pritzker I think changed significantly how the legislative process unfolds. (Mike) Madigan and Pritzker were aligned basically lock step through the spring session. What that meant is that much of Pritzker’s agenda advanced with the help of majority Democrats.
The spring session is January through May.
“For much of the spring session there was a very partisan tone, where the only ideas being advanced were those that received support only from Democrats. On big issues, the minimum wage, the graduate income tax, and other issues, Gov. Pritzker didn’t seem to be interested in Republican support or ideas.
“The end of May, literally the last week, when some very big issues were being decided, he changed his tune and became more accepting of Republican ideas. Not that 100 percent of our ideas got put into law, but there was a more focused attention on getting some bipartisan support in legislation.
“That changed the tone of spring,” he said. “It leaves the question as to what next year will look like. Will it be like the first four-and-a-half months, where things were very partisan, or is is it going to be like the last few days, where there was a more bipartisan approach. I don’t know the answer to that. Gov. Pritzker will make that determination.
“I think we can look ahead,” Barickman said. “There’s things he wants to do and there’s things he wants the public to think he is doing. They could become things we do.
“The things he wants to do are issues that are politically polarizing,” Barickman said. “I think he is going to advance legislation that attempts to curb the rights of Second Amendment, law abiding citizens who believe in the Second Amendment.
“I think he will attempt to advance legislation on abortions and specifically the questions whether minor girls continue to have to obtain the consent of parents before getting an abortion.
“I think he will want to advance rent control measures that will skew the markets for what rents are across the state,” Barickman said. “And he’s going to want to advance legislation being promoted by the new Chicago mayor, Lori Lightfoot. She wants change to the manor in which a Chicago casino can be taxed. She’ll want some other taxing authority that I think he’ll ultimately become supportive of.
“So those are the things I think he’ll want to do and I look at those as largely very polarizing issues. They fit a narrative that is consistent with an election year, which next year is. Can you divide the public and advocate really emotional issues?
“And separate from that is the issues that effect people’s lives,” Barickman said. “These are things I think he wants people to think that he’s interested. Property tax reform. Property taxes is an issue that most everyone around the state requires a governmental fix to control our property taxes.
“Rather than provide bold leadership on it, he says ‘I want to have a task force and I’m going to put 88 people on the task force’. I’m skeptical of what the outcome looks like but he clearly wants the public to believe that he’s interested in property tax reform.
“The same goes for ethics reforms,” Barickman said, noting that there has been quite a bit of corruption in Illinois.
“One of my colleagues in the Senate just resigned last week after several weeks of bad news about the FBI raids on him. There’s been allegations of one legislator bribed another one. This cloud of current corruption stories; the governor wants to be perceived to be strong on ethics reforms. I think there’s a lot of things we could do there. I’ve introduced by own bills. But thus far, the governor has been unwilling to speak publicly in a bold way on this stuff. There’s going to be a task force and we’ll see what the task force comes up with. I’m hopeful that it doesn’t come up with a report that sits on a shelf and gathers dust until the next round of indictments. We’ll see how it plays out.”
Barickman said property tax reform to the taxpayer is simple. Taxpayers open their bill and look to see if the bill went up or stayed the same or went down. “I think that’s the bench mark for any property tax reform,” he said. “Any ideas you have have to answer the question of what does it mean for the taxpayer? I think people are pleasantly surprised if their bill stays flat and they would be thrilled if their tax bill goes down. I think those are charges that the commission should be tasked with. How do you make those outcomes?”
Some new laws are going into effect Jan. 1 and are on people’s minds. Barickman said there has been mixed views and feelings about the legalization of cannabis and a car trade-in tax.
“I thought how it became legalized was an incredibly important component,” he said. “I was a very vocal advocate of local control. We had a political fight over that. In the legislative process there was a negotiation where I said absolutely you need to allow for local control. We allow for local control in lots of things and I thought that was important. Now it’s interesting to hear communities who are exercising the control that the state gave to them. I think that’s a very important component of the law. I thought the other concern that I heard a lot about early on was the impact that it could have on employers. So I vocalized the need for employers to have workplace protections so that they can ensure the safety of their employees. Both of those components got incorporated into the law. I thought that was a good thing.
“The other component is the impact it will have on the public and youths. I do believe that the public is making choices to use illegal products that will now become legalized, but it’s not going to change the fact that law enforcement still needs to be tasked with keeping impaired drivers off the road. Whether it’s legal or not we don’t want impaired drivers. The law is going to generate some additional dollars to go to local law enforcement. The law is going to restrict the ability of those who are selling this to have products and advertising campaigns that could target youths. All that is a part of the law and are important components of it.”
The car trade-in tax also takes effect Jan. 1.
This measure was part of the capital bill. He said that it had some components that will not be taxed. “The initial proposal on this would have taxed farm equipment and other such vehicles. It was much more narrowly tailored. I know there are some legislative proposals to repeal that. I don’t know if those will ever see the light of day. Hopefully this doesn’t do anything to aggravate the market that is car buyers and sellers in the state.”
Barickman said as he has been traveling the district, he realizes that there is frustration.
“I think that if we see more bipartisanship like we saw in those final weeks we’re going to see a genuine effort that will be good for Illinois come together,” he said. “I think so long as things continue down a partisan path, that’s concerning. You’re making political decisions, not policy driven decisions. I don’t really know how next year is going to go yet because I’m not sure which path Pritzker is going to choose. And with the back drop of a national election doesn’t suggest that next year is going to be filled with positive news.”
He said the tough years have caused the public to react to the problems.
“The public is reacting to the inability of government to come together and make forward progress,” he said. “I think the exception to that is often forgotten is what’s happening in our public school system. In 2017 it was five years of work that led to changing law on how we fund our public school systems.
“The result of it is that Watseka and every school in Iroquois County is going to benefit from the changes to the school funding law that were made two or three years ago. I hope what that means is that we are sending to schools who are in need more resources and they are able to put those resources to work to lift the education of their students. I do think we have made some positive steps forward on how we fund our schools. That’s a really important issue that should not be lost.
“I’m an unabashed advocate of reforms to government that allow the economy to grow. I usually say to people that I believe people move here when they get here. I would add to that that when people are considering a move to Illinois they will always look to the schools. So the more that we can help them invest in schools, the better equipped we are for people who want to call Illinois a home. So we’re a good state, good infrastructure. It’s controversial but we are making a necessary investment in our infrastructure, especially our roads and our bridges. That was a good investment to make.
“I think we have good Midwestern values of common sense and hard work coupled with a high quality school system. We have the foundation for greatness. The problems we have are all governmentally created. We spend more money than we take in. Our promises outweigh exponentially our ability to pay for them. And we continually try to make it harder rather than easier for people to locate jobs here. So if you are a manufacturer in Watseka who is paying higher workers’ comp insurance premiums than he or she would if they would move 20 miles east of here, my message is I hear you and I’m an advocate for you. We’re not seeing yet the political will in Springfield to get those important reforms done.”
Barickman said his Youth Advisory Board went well, bringing 75 students from across Central Illinois. There are differences of opinion in those groups, he said. “We provide them a civil forum in which they can express themselves and advocate for their views and hopefully learn a little bit about how the political process works, or doesn’t work sometimes and maybe wet their appetite for a career in public services. I always get a charge out of it. I’m there all day and I interact with the students. If there’s any takeaway it’s that there’s a lot of bright minds out there who are ready to go conquer the world. Let’s hope the rest of us don’t get in their way.”