City Beat: U. S. Reps Reaction To State Of The Union Speech, Illinois’ Financial Picture Impacts Decatur
How was President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech Tuesday evening received by the two Congresswomen who represent Decatur and Macon County?
U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinski, D-Springfield stated: “Tonight’s speech from President Biden laid out a number of priorities that lower costs, support good-paying jobs that don’t require a four-year degree and help folks in Central and Southern Illinois keep more of what they earn. While I would have liked to hear the President address the need to pass a bipartisan Farm Bill, I was encouraged to hear about our shared efforts to support American manufacturing and union jobs, protect Social Security and Medicare, restore the full Child Tax Credit, ensure access to mental health care for every veteran and cap insulin prices at $35 a month for every American. Let’s work together and get the job done.”
U.S. Rep. Mary Miller, R-Oakland, who did not attend the speech in protest stated: “Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up President Trump’s State of the Union Address, which celebrated a secure border, support for our military, and American energy independence. Joe Biden’s presidency has been filled with lie after lie, especially lies about the border being secure, inflation being temporary, and the DOJ targeting parents for attending school board meetings. I will not be attending Biden’s State of the Union to listen to him lie about the damage he has caused to our country while the left-wing media and members of Congress applaud his lies.”
There you have it. Decide for yourself who best represented you.
• ILLINOIS’ less than favorable financial climate is resulting in the loss of population and businesses and having a negative impact on Decatur and other communities in the state. Despite all of the glowing reports of how well Illinois is doing, some are telling a different story.
For instance, Ted Dabrowski, President of Wirepoints, an independent, nonpartisan organization dedicated to news aggregation, research and commentary, challenged comments made by Governor JB Pritzker, who recently traveled to Davos, Switzerland to speak at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting.
Dabrowski wrote: “While there, he joined CNBC’s ‘Squawk Box’ to promote his ‘achievements,’ but his interviewers consistently challenged or rejected his many claims on crime, job creation and the flight of major companies from Illinois.”
Dabrowski indicated the big three false claims made by the governor were:
1. Pritzker said “crime is coming down gradually” in Chicago. Not true. Crime in Chicago was up 41% in 2022 and is already up 61% in 2023.
2. Pritzker said Illinois was “attracting jobs and businesses to the state.” Not true. Illinois employment has shrunk by 173,000 people since the governor took office in 2019. That’s the 3rd-worst performance by any state in the country. Illinois has created no net new jobs in 20 years
3. Pritzker said that “one business left” the state – Citadel. Not true. Illinois lost in 2022 the headquarters of three major Fortune 500 companies – Caterpillar, Boeing and Tyson Foods.
Dabrowski concluded by stating: “The governor may try to paint a pretty picture of Illinois to suit his presidential ambitions, but it’s just not true.” Of course, Dabrowski is just one person expressing his views about what’s happening in our state, but others have joined his concern about the state’s financial climate and its impact on those living, working and operating a business in Illinois.
• COUNTERPOINT — Gover-nor JB Pritzker’s office issued a news release on Friday stating that “Illinois has been named the number one leader for workforce development in the Midwest region for 2022, up from number two in 2021. The ranking highlights Illinois’ commitment to providing innovative workforce programs, career training, and employment services that create resources for jobseekers and ensure businesses continue to thrive.
“When we invest in workforce development, we create opportunities for every Illinoisan and establish a more economically prosperous future for our state,” said Governor Pritzker. “Through my administration’s historic investments in education, infrastructure, and business development, we’re creating thousands of good-paying jobs and a skilled workforce that’s ready for those jobs. We’re keeping our state’s best assets — our people — at the forefront of economic progress.”
The ranking, announced by Site Selection magazine, recognizes “states that performed well in a set of measures that gauge workforce-related aspects of states’ overall employment climate.” It combines information from CNBC, U.S. News, and other organizations. So, is Illinois doing better these days? It depends on who is doing the evaluating — and the political implications that are involved.
• OBVIOUSLY, I’m not only a newspaper editor, but a newspaper publisher which makes me a businessman running a publishing operation in Decatur, Illinois. I certainly have growing concerns about the business climate in our state and community, when people are leaving our city and state to move where the financial climate and taxation are better suited to growth.
I have mentioned in this column in the past that, when I was mayor of Decatur, a top Caterpillar executive told us that, if his company wasn’t already in Illinois they would never think of moving here because of the oppressive taxes and poor treatment at the state level. That was years ago and, since that time, Caterpillar has made some movement to advance out of our state.
• THANKFULLY, we still have a Caterpillar plant in Decatur, along with ADM, and others. However, how many more companies, and company expansion could we have if our state was more welcoming with a better business climate?
My roots are firmly planted in Decatur and the surrounding small towns and I don’t have any intention of running a business anywhere else, especially with most of my career behind me. But, I do have concerns about the future of those who follow my generation and the opportunities that will be available in our community.
Frankly, despite the announcements of new and expanding businesses in Decatur, I see a lot of empty buildings on my travels around the city and its not an encouraging sight. I realize that technology has changed a lot from when I first started my business in the 1960s but it is difficult for a city to overcome the obstacles for growth that are confronting it because of the financial and business climate created by the state where the city is located.
We have some very committed people working hard every day to grow our city, but they have to work twice as hard to overcome the less than attractive view of our state by a lot of potential business investors.
• YEARS AGO, the head of the Economic Development Corporation at the time told me that, whenever he went to a business expo to attract new businesses to Decatur, as soon as potential clients found out that he was from Illinois, they indicated there wasn’t much point in talking to him and it wasn’t because of him, or Decatur, but the state where Decatur was located. Obviously, I love this city and area and have realized my business and career dreams here. I want others to find what I’ve found here and realize their dreams and aspirations in Decatur and Central Illinois.
I still believe in the promise of this community, but we have to work even harder to overcome the poor decisions and taxpayer-unfriendly environment that continue to drive residents from our state.
• THIS week’s “Scrapbook” feature on the Rogers Theatre reminds me that, when I bought this newspaper in 1969, it was located next to the Rogers Theatre on East Wood Street, with a tavern between the newspaper office and the theatre. What I remember most about that location was the number of rats (the 4-legged kind) that were in that newspaper building. Even though the newspaper had been in business only a year when I bought it, it apparently was enough time for the rats to invite all of their relatives to live in the building with them! We didn’t stay in that rat-infested location long as I moved the newspaper downtown in the remodeled Shinner’s Market building, which was between the Hecht Building and The Surrey in the 100 block of East Prairie. (We didn’t move the rats with us.)
The original newspaper building on East Wood Street, along with the tavern and the Rogers Theatre, were demolished years ago, along with the other buildings on that corner. Also, the buildings in the 100 block of East Prairie, including the newspaper offices, The Surrey and the Hecht Building, were demolished 27 years ago to make room for the new multi-story office building which encompasses the half block to the alley where the aforementioned buildings stood.
• I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at 7:00 for the City Hall Insider. We’ve discussed the issues impacting Decatur and our area about every Thursday for the past 20 years.