DEER GROVE – Entering year three without a state budget, there was no way to mask the frustration elected officials felt Friday at the annual Whiteside County Republicans Lincoln Day Dinner.
The party faithful gathered to hear state Sen. Neil Anderson, state Rep. Tony McCombie and Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Wayne Rosenthal rally the troops at Deer Valley Golf Club.
Anderson, who represents the 36th Senate District, has been in Springfield for the duration of the budget mess, while McCombie is just getting her feet wet. Anderson didn’t mince words when talking about the gridlock, especially when it came to House Speaker Mike Madigan.
“It makes me angry when people ask me when the governor is going to start doing his job,” Anderson said. “Why don’t we look at the guy who’s been there 40 years instead of the guy who just got here?”
Anderson said the Democrats have made no concessions to Gov. Bruce Rauner in the budget battle, and as difficult as the impasse has been, Republicans must stick by their governor.
“The governor has no choice but to keep pushing for the reforms needed to get us out of the mess we’re in,” Anderson said.
McCombie ousted two-term Democrat Mike Smiddy from his seat in the 71st House District in November. The former Savanna mayor said she is still trying to meet everyone in her district, and in her travels, she sees a lot of disgruntled people. She understands their frustration now more than ever.
“The worst part of being in Springfield is the rules and how they manage the day-to-day operations on the floor,” McCombie said.
McCombie said the General Assembly would be well-served by emulating local government bodies.
“If they managed things the way cities and counties do, we’d all be much better off,” she said.
Rosenthal, the keynote speaker, was appointed IDNR director by Rauner in January 2015. Prior to that, he had experienced the frustrations of state government firsthand as a representative of the 95th House District.
Rosenthal lives in Morrisonville, a small town in Christian County. He became involved in politics late in life, after serving in the Illinois Air National Guard for 30 years, retiring as a brigadier general.
“I was flying F-4 planes and never really thought about politics, but when I retired, the party asked if I’d consider running,” Rosenthal said.
After a near-death flight experience in 1986, he said he figured he must still have something else important to do.
“People in the House asked me why I smiled so much, but when you survive something like that, every day’s a good day,” Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal said Rauner must stay strong against the “tax-and-spend Democrats” he dealt with in the House.
“Speaker Madigan has offered up nothing to compromise, so if we want things to finally change in Illinois, we have to stick with our governor,” Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal also talked about how hard budget cuts have hit his agency. He said IDNR had 2,300 employees in 2002, and today that number stands at 1,029.
Go to whitesidecountygop.com for more information about the Whiteside County Republican Central Committee.