Monday, August 2, 2010

Illinois Chamber Ranks Legislators

Let’s Applaud Champions of Free Enterprise in Illinois
President’s Message - July 30, 2010
By Doug Whitley
President & CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce

The Illinois Chamber is recognizing 37 Illinois legislators – 12 senators and 25 representatives – who have courageously and consistently supported legislative issues that are critical to business and job creation in Illinois – despite a hostile environment in Springfield. The Chamber has named these legislators winners of the Illinois Chamber Champion of Free Enterprise Award for their exceptional records in defending free enterprise and furthering economic opportunity.

We thank those legislators who have consistently voted in line with a pro-business, pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda. Our Free Enterprise Awards go to legislators with the best voting records, according to the Illinois Chamber’s annual Legislative Ratings report, released earlier this month.

Ideally, every member of the Illinois General Assembly would realize that beyond question the number one public policy issue in Illinois is job growth. Before every vote, our legislators should be asking themselves whether the proposal they’re voting on will hurt or promote employment in Illinois. Sadly, as the scorecard demonstrates, promoting job growth and economic prosperity is not always foremost on all legislators’ minds when they cast their votes.

What Employers Are Up Against
Those legislators who understand that private enterprise is the engine to lead Illinois back to prosperity deserve our praise, contributions to their campaign coffers and voter support. Thankfully, there are legislators who serve as voices of reason and a critical counterbalance to political leaders who have ignored the costs of doing business while steering Illinois into an economic ditch during the past decade. State leaders – particularly Democrats in powerful positions – have been in charge during what I call the “lost decade” for Illinois’ economy.

I am sure you will share my disappointment that so many legislators – particularly Democrats – have chosen to vote against the interests of the employers who create jobs and bring prosperity to our state. The distinguishing factors tend to be votes on measures that increase employer costs, impose mandates, or favor the narrow interests of organized labor. It is shocking when legislators seem oblivious to any relationship such actions may have toward the outward migration of jobs, double digit unemployment throughout the state and constituents who have moved to other states taking their talents, investments and entrepreneurial skills with them..

What the Ratings Mean
The Chamber has developed its Legislative Ratings report for more than 25 years and, given the current state of our economy, the rankings have never been more important to employers and their employees. The ratings provide one tool to inform voters on whether their state legislators are working to attract and retain jobs in our state.

I invite you to look at the Chamber’s full Legislative Ratings report at: http://www.ilchamber.org/docs/government_affairs/IL%20Chamber%20Legislative%20Ratings%2009%2010.pdf.  The ratings are based on legislators’ votes on key business legislation, as determined by Chamber staff and the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee. Legislators who earned a rating of 85 percent or better during the previous three two-year General Assembly sessions were honored with the Chamber’s 2009-2010 Champion of Free Enterprise Awards. The Chamber believes this six-year look at legislators’ records is much better than a one- or two-year snapshot. It shows which lawmakers consistently support measures that are important for employers and our economic well-being.

Some of the votes included in the Chamber’s current review include telecommunications reform, state pension reform, capital plan financing, prevailing wage and “card check” legislation, procurement reform and tax votes.

The Chamber also recognizes two first-term legislators – Sen. Kyle McCarter of Lebanon and Rep. Darlene Senger of Naperville – who have demonstrated special leadership in the promotion of free enterprise. Since it is impossible for a “rookie” legislator to earn a Champion of Free Enterprise Award, the Chamber chooses to identify an outstanding new member of the Senate and of the House of Representatives to praise them for their voting records and support for pro-job legislative initiatives.

How You Can Use the Ratings
The November 2 election will be here before you know it, and the campaigns for General Assembly are in full swing. The Illinois Chamber Legislative Ratings are an indispensable tool for anyone who cares deeply about Illinois’ business climate and the economic future of this state. I urge you to use the rankings to help evaluate whether to support a legislator’s campaign or, at the very least, determine which candidate gets your vote. I also urge you to share this information with others by forwarding this email or the link to the legislative scorecard.   

The trial of our former governor reminds me of the outlandish rhetoric and anti-business policies pursued by that administration, which resulted in a steady exodus of jobs to other states and countries. Unfortunately, those actions and a powerful recession have resulted in unacceptable levels of unemployment in Illinois and are putting Illinois at a serious competitive disadvantage.

We need to reverse this trend – as soon as possible. Part of the solution is to elect – this November – legislators who believe in pro-jobs initiatives for Illinois: less taxation, less litigation, less regulation, speedier permitting, workers’ compensation reform, a balanced budget, and paying vendors in a timely manner. In addition, our state leaders must be attentive to multi-state competitiveness measures, nurture hometown industries and provide a stable political climate.

Our objective is to get more legislators to walk in the shoes of the entrepreneurs and job creators in Illinois. They need to know what it takes to create a favorable environment for business owners that aids in the creation of job growth and prosperity. You can help by letting your state legislators and candidates know what is important to you. Call them, write to them and talk with them. Send me an e-mail if you have ideas or would like to share your company’s “cost of doing business” story with legislators.

This election cannot be about sitting on the sidelines if you are concerned about our state’s economic future. Find the candidates that reflect your concerns about changing the direction of Illinois and get involved. If you need ideas and suggestions, do not hesitate to contact me or one of the Chamber staff. We can help you get plugged into activities that can make a difference this November. You can support the Chamber PAC by sending a check to: Chamber PAC, 215 East Adams, Springfield, Illinois, 62701.

It’s Not About Partisan Politics
It is disappointing that not one Democrat supported employers’ interests enough to earn the Champion of Free Enterprise Award this term. I do not believe Democratic state legislators really want to be known as the anti-jobs and anti-prosperity lawmakers. But more of them are going to have to change their voting patterns if Illinois is going to reverse its sad and low standing in numerous national surveys.

Time and again, measures that would help our struggling economy and bring jobs to Illinois become entangled in party politics. Rather than play what too often turns into a partisan and populist game of business-bashing, legislators should look for ways to create an environment that fosters job creation and job growth. Creating jobs is a non-partisan activity that requires a bi-partisan effort. Regardless of party or office, no elected official in this state can ignore that fundamental objective.

What is the best solution for unemployment? Job creation.
The best way to reverse the state’s declining tax receipts? Job creation.
The best answer for reducing reliance upon government services? Job creation.
The best solution for community needs? Job creation.

The Bottom Line: We’re All Watching
State legislators need to recognize that every governmental entity and nonprofit organization in Illinois depends on the success, health and prosperity of the private sector. The laws the Legislature passes, the regulations they pursue, the costly litigation they allow, the rhetoric they espouse has got to change.

Legislators need to know that someone is watching. We, as their constituents, must hold them accountable. The Illinois Chamber voting record is an important tool to help you measure the performance of elected officials. Use it.

Pekin Chamber's Legislative Scorecard
The Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce has summarized the Illinois Chamber's scorecard for legislators in our area.  You can find that summary at:  http://www.pekin.net/LegislativeScore.htm

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