Illinois' inability to pay its bills, abysmal credit rating and flagging economy are all the results of a single cause. This state's government has failed to govern, failed to lead and failed to inspire confidence. Without sweeping changes to the leadership of the Land of Lincoln, this death spiral will continue and we will remain the bankrupted laughing stock that we have become. During my first year of office, I was pleasantly surprised by a budget process that was a near antithesis of past years. For decades, the Illinois budget had been drafted behind closed doors and only came into the light a few hours before legislators were called upon to vote on it. This is no way to draft a budget that spends tens of billions of taxpayer dollars and impinges upon the lives of millions of Illinoisans. However, in my first year of office, we did it right. We developed realistic revenue estimates, paid our first bills first and distributed all remaining line items in an open, bipartisan manner. Sadly, business as usual returned in May of 2012 and the most recent budget passed the Illinois House on a party-line vote. If our state is going to regain its strength and return to its rightful place as the undisputed regional powerhouse that we used to be, we are going to need to make real changes. First, we must remove Michael Madigan from his seat of unbridled power. He has been Speaker of the Illinois House for all but two years since 1983. It is not surprising that Illinois' decline has mirrored his reign. Next, we must get the boot of government off the throats of those who would like to take risks and make opportunity happen. What does Illinois do instead? It raises taxes, stifles business with regulation and scares off the very people we need to turn this mess around. Perhaps the most notable recent casualty is the headquarters of Illinois native sandwich chain Jimmy Johns. The owner cited our deplorable business climate as a prime reason for the departure. A hallmark of bad policy in this state is the jobs-crushing 67 percent tax increase that was rammed through a lame duck General Assembly, only hours before I, and other reform-minded freshman, were sworn in. Please let me be clear. That tax hike was wrong. I would have voted against it. I am a co-sponsor of attempts to repeal it. Also, sunset would be a good idea if it actually was scheduled to fully go away, but in the trickery of Springfield, the scheduled rollback is only partial. Illinois can be great again. We have to kick out the Chicago politicians who hold us back. We must end wrong-headed policies that only worsen our situation. We need to turn our great citizens and abundant resources free and watch them thrive again. In this race for state representative, I am the only candidate who is willing or able to take these serious steps toward prosperity and security.
Rep. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, represents the 71st Illinois House district.