A Publication of WTVP

I've announced I'm going to spend the next few months exploring the idea of running for governor of our great state. I certainly enjoy being your representative in Congress, but I don't believe our current governor has shown the leadership expected in our state's highest office. Over the past year, many people have approached me about the governor's race, and I believe it's worthwhile to explore that possibility. With that in mind, I thought I'd share my thoughts on the governor's State of the State address last month.

In his address, Gov. Blagojevich painted a rosy picture of our state. He began by saying, "The state of the state is strong." I'm not sure which state he was referring to, but I believe the state of the State of Illinois is a mess. We have a governor who prefers headlines to action and would rather divide than unite us. As Paul Harvey would say, "Here's the rest of the story."

The governor patted himself on the back for jobs created by the private sector, in spite of-not because of-his administration's anti-jobs policies. He bragged about balancing the state's budget, even though after two years the budget still isn't balanced and the governor continues to rely on debt to cover his lack of fiscal leadership. The governor boasted about his support of education, but his actions more resemble an ostrich than a leader. Does he not understand that record numbers of Illinois schools are in fiscal crisis?

The governor took credit for the recent decline in the state's unemployment numbers, but he failed to say a word about thousands of jobs Illinois has lost. He glossed over that the entire nation is recovering from a recession, and Illinois is recovering more slowly than the rest of the nation.

The governor believes our "economy is back." The rest of the story is that, due to the Blagojevich administration's anti-business policies, Illinois has lagged far behind the national recovery President Bush and the Republican Congress spearheaded. While we've cut taxes on the federal level, this governor has increased more than 300 fees and taxes on the businesses that provide jobs for the citizens of this state.

A February 2 story in the Chicago Tribune stated, "The state badly lagged the nation in job growth…we are still at an all-time low of manufacturing employees in this state." Not only have we lagged behind the entire nation, but we're also lagging behind our Midwest neighbors. Of course, when the governor champions higher taxes on business, it's easy for Illinois businesses to defect to Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, or Indiana. This governor talks about helping business, but the business community is outraged at his performance. I have a track record of bringing business, government, and community leaders together to create jobs in our state, and I'll bring that same ability to the governor's office.

I was astounded that Gov. Blagojevich practically omitted one very important word to the people of Illinois: agriculture. He barely had anything to say about agriculture in an hour-long speech. The governor did announce that September will be designated as Wine Month. I suppose this was his way of trying to make up to the fast-growing wine industry he nearly destroyed two years ago when he eliminated all state support to their much-needed marketing program.

Agriculture drives the economy of Illinois. According to the governor's own statistics, Illinois has more than 76,000 farms covering more than 28 million acres. That's 80 percent of the land in our state. Our state has 950 food manufacturing companies, produces about 678 million gallons of ethanol, and is second in the nation in exporting ag products to other countries. Yet the governor couldn't even say the word "agriculture."

With my prior service on the House Agriculture Committee and my current service on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcom-mittee, I have a keen understanding of the importance of agriculture to our citizens. Our current governor has turned his back on our farm families. As governor, I'd make agriculture a priority.

While the governor praised his hostile takeover of the Illinois State Board of Education, the rest of the story is his failure to mention that 80 percent of our state's schools are in deficit spending. The governor believes he's done great things to our state's education system, but from my view as a former junior high school teacher, I haven't seen the governor do a thing to address the fundamental problem of funding for the schools of our state. The governor has backtracked on education reform in Chicago, and he's failed for two years to obtain funds for local school construction.

Education won't take a back seat to any issue in a LaHood administration, and I'll work with everyone who has a stake in educating our children to find an answer for the school funding woes and improving academic performance.

This is a time when our state needs real leadership, but the only thing the citizens of Illinois have gotten over the past two years is a show horse. The governor believes in press conferences over policy. He believes in polls over policy. He believes in politics over policy. I just believe in good policy.
I have a track record of solving problems and providing leadership. I believe in a collaborative approach that brings smart people together to get the job done. I don't believe polls should dictate what I say or how I act. If given the honor of serving as governor of Illinois, I'll bring leadership, responsibility, and integrity back to the office. IBI