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Education funding ‘biggest challenge’ state rep says

State representative spoke at Rock Falls Library

Published: Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 10:15 a.m. CDT
Mike Smiddy

ROCK FALLS – State Rep. Mike Smiddy said the biggest challenge he faced in his first term in the state General Assembly was the budget.

Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, represents the state’s 71st District, which includes Whiteside County. He spoke at the Rock River Open Forum on Thursday night to a group of about 25 residents at the Rock Falls Public Library.

As a member of the state’s secondary education appropriations committee, he said one of the legislature’s successes was keeping the funding for education at the same level.

“But the challenge is going to be moving forward,” he said. “... If we don’t do something about revenue, and we don’t so something about our current financial situation here in Illinois, we’re going to have to look at cutting those programs.

“That’s probably going to be the biggest challenge that we face coming up here. Not only in the veto session, but in the next session as well.”

In his first term as a legislator, Smiddy sponsored a bill that would prevent registered sex offenders from attending county fairs. He said he’s been working to build support for the bill in Springfield and is “fairly confident” that there will be movement on the bill next session.

Smiddy spoke at the forum and answered questions for nearly 2 hours. Among the topics of discussions were:

• Smiddy worked as a supervisor in the Illinois Department of Corrections for 8 years. He said the reduction in programs in prisons – like job training – has increased the rate of inmates committing crimes once released.

“As an insider ... I have some good ideas on how to not only save money but also cut down on recidivism for inmates,” he said. “And when we do that, we save the taxpayers a lot of money.”

• Smiddy said infrastructure projects for roads and bridges go a long way toward attracting businesses to the district. He said the district’s proximity to interstates and major cities could make the area a hub in the future.

• An independent redistricting measure was taken off the November ballot when a Cook County Circuit Court judge ruled it unconstitutional. Smiddy said he’s working on a bill that removes the parts that were deemed unconstitutional.

“I’m tired of legislators picking their constituents, instead of the other way around,” he said. “If we do something like that, I can almost guarantee you that things will change in Illinois, because they’ll be worried about being re-elected, because they have to actually stand up in forums like this.”

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