Dist. 59 hopeful says he won't play games, political or otherwise, if elected
HARRISBURG – Republican Mayor Dale Fowler, who is campaigning for the state Senate Dist. 59 seat against incumbent Democrat Gary Forby, is keeping himself busy, having campaigned in three parades this month and speaking and listening to voters about their concerns with what is happening in Springfield.
“(The parades) went really well,” Fowler told the Southwest Illinois News. “Extremely excited about speaking with the citizens and voters. They were very polite and very interested and concerned about the state of our state. Had some really great conversations with a lot of our concerned voters throughout southern Illinois.”
Fowler’s demanding schedule contrasts with what was witnessed on the Springfield Capitol floor earlier this week, when two lawmakers were caught playing video games on their phones while a debate over education was in progress.
“How embarrassing is that?” Fowler said. “Unfortunately, these images are a pretty good example of what is happening in Illinois. The politicians in Springfield are busy playing video games, especially during an important debate such as the budget impasse that we’re in. We’re debating a budget, and they’re sitting there playing video games.”
The mayor stresses that this neglect is harming the people of Illinois.
“On top of that, they’re pointing fingers as to whose fault all this is and holding press conferences while the hard-working people here in southern Illinois are struggling, hurting and just waiting for our state government to get back to work and help everyone, instead of holding everything,” Fowler said. “That’s what I hear throughout southern Illinois.”
Fowler said lawmakers need to reflect on their positions and do better.
“I’ve been in tune, watching the legislative floor, and it is kind of embarrassing to see how, in my opinion, mismanaged and disrespectful the legislative floor is,” Fowler said. “You see major important debates for important bills that are being debated on the floor, and you got other legislators standing up, talking to each other with little sidebar conversations, and then (there are) those playing video games. I mean golly, you couldn’t even allow that in schools.”
Representatives are supposed to be setting examples, Fowler said.
“We’re supposed to be setting a standard and a precedent for our voters and our youth," Fowler said. "What kind of signal does this send to our youth when they see this, our legislature playing video games…when we’re talking about education struggling, our taxes and people leaving the state of Illinois?"
Fowler can’t picture legislators or anyone else being interested in such things. In fact, Fowler can’t imagine any legislature having the time for distractions.
“I'd rather spend the time more productively," Fowler said. "I tell everybody, I have never even seen the first episode of "Seinfeld." I can’t picture having that kind of idle time."
These kinds of trivialities have hurt the state of Illinois, both figuratively and literally, Fowler said. A Pew Charitable Trust report issued recently said Illinois has more than $53 billion in state employee health care debt.
“It’s no secret here in southern Illinois that those politicians in Springfield have been mismanaging the health care benefits for our state employees,” Fowler said. “That’s the shame of it all. The most frustrating part to me is that the taxpayers are forced to pick up the bill for all these mistakes. Just over the past six years, the State of Illinois has racked up over $900 million in late fees and interest for failing to pay state workers medical claims on time. Think about that -- $900 million.”
Fowler hopes voters take notice of the mismanagement and realize how it has affected businesses in the state.
“I hope people take note of this," Fowler said. "It’s part of the long list of problems. If we don’t become more business-friendly and business-competitive soon, and I mean very soon, the rate of outbound citizens and businesses is going to...increase more than they already are."
To emphasis this, Fowler recounts a story about a business associate who contacted him regarding his campaign. The associate had done some major expansion work that will attract more people to the local community, bring in more sales tax dollars and create a few more jobs. As part of the expansion, the company built some new buildings to house employees. Recently, the mayor said, the business associate received a letter that his sales tax is going to increase by more than 700 percent because of this expansion.
“He told me, ‘I might as well not even open the doors,’” Fowler said. “Here we are, we’re having companies that are working hard trying to increase sales tax dollars, increase revenues and create jobs, and they are being penalized because we lead the entire nation with the highest property taxes. So why would you expand? Why would you be in the state?”
Fowler stresses that Springfield can’t just use taxes as a crutch to bail out the state’s financial woes -- there must be changes.
“You can’t just keep raising taxes,” Fowler said. “If we don’t make some critical changes soon with our workers' compensation costs and our property taxes, we’re doomed for failure. We all know what happens when people leave our state? They take their billfolds and their bank accounts and their kids.”
Fowler hopes to be the agent of change if he is elected. Fowler is amazed at the amount of support he is receiving and said he appreciates people reaching out to him, talking with him and wanting to know his views.
“It’s encouraging," Fowler said. "By the same token, I know this is going to be a difficult endeavor. It’s an uphill battle. But I am one of those people (who) are going in for the right reasons: to be a voice and not to be a career politician or to take a pension.”
Fowler said he’ll be the one standing and debating.
“I want to go in and do what’s right and stand up, instead of playing video games.”
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Harrisburg, IL - 62946