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Legislative fitness? Budget needs it, too

A determined state lawmaker who lost 100 pounds encourages others to join his “fitness caucus.” We hope the effort also positively influences the 2014-15 state budget.

Published: Saturday, March 8, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

Incremental changes can have a big impact as their effects accumulate over time.

For example, people who alter their lifestyles by eating responsibly and exercising more will reap multiple benefits. They will live healthier lives and feel better about themselves.

State Rep. Don Moffitt, a Republican from Gilson, knows that well.

Two years ago, Moffitt, who represents the southwest corner of Lee County and most of Bureau County, got bad news from his doctor. The chubby lawmaker was told that he might have to start taking diabetes medication if he didn’t adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Moffitt took stock of his situation. As a veteran lawmaker, he had sat for long periods of time during hearings and House sessions, gone to numerous social events and dinners in Springfield, attended dinners in his district, and logged a lot of windshield time.

No wonder he had piled on the pounds.

As Moffitt told an Associated Press writer last month, “Losing weight is a decision.”

Moffitt made the decision to eat healthier and start exercising, and the pounds began to drop off.

Two years later, he has shed 100 pounds and feels great – so great that he decided to encourage fellow legislators to experience the health benefits that he enjoys.

Moffitt launched a “fitness caucus” that is intended to help lawmakers, lobbyists and other Capitol folks embark on weight-loss journeys and also share what works for them and what doesn’t.

As part of the effort, Moffitt hopes to organize walks and health programs, and maybe even get district residents involved.

Transforming from couch potato to being healthy and fit isn’t easy. Moffitt said it takes determination. But the benefits are real and worthwhile.

An added benefit, we hope, is that the philosophy of “fitness caucus” members will spread to the taxing and spending habits of the Illinois General Assembly.

In January 2011, state government started gobbling up more revenue when the Legislature temporarily raised income tax rates on individuals and businesses. State leaders said the extra money would help improve the chubby state government’s dire financial health. From what we can tell, that hasn’t happened.

Ten months from now, those temporary hikes will ease, and Illinois’ finances might face a crash diet. Both the House and Senate have already gone on record as predicting a $1.3 billion reduction in revenue for 2014-15.

Let lawmakers learn a lesson from determined dieters like Moffitt. By imposing incremental reductions in spending now, state government should become leaner and healthier over time.

If Moffitt doesn’t mind, we’d like to nominate the 2014-15 state budget to join his “fitness caucus.”

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