Tom Kacich: Another area lawmaker bails on 'turnaround'

Tom Kacich: Another area lawmaker bails on 'turnaround'

State Rep. Reggie Phillips of Charleston last week became the third Republican lawmaker from East Central Illinois to announce his retirement from the Legislature, joining Reps. Chad Hays of Catlin and Bill Mitchell of Forsyth. They're part of a list of more than two dozen legislators from both parties who are either getting out of the General Assembly or running for another office.

Phillips came into the Legislature as a disciple of Gov. Bruce Rauner's so-called turnaround agenda. He said he still believes in it, but it's obvious in both his words and actions that Phillips didn't buy into all of Rauner's political strategies and methods. Phillips voted both for the income tax increase and the budget deal that Rauner outwardly opposed.

"The theme was to make Illinois better, shake up Springfield. I understood it. I'm in. I'm for it," Phillips said. "But the direction it took, it took off on its own. It was like being on a whitewater raft with a professional helping you, and then all of sudden, you don't have paddles.

"That's what it was. Nobody could foresee what was going to happen and where it was going to go."

Phillips, whose district includes Eastern Illinois University, community colleges, hospitals, prisons and other institutions affected by the two-year-long budget impasse, said he couldn't watch it continue.

"And all it did was do more devastation at that point, in my opinion," the two-term lawmaker and builder-developer said. "I was looking at my crystal ball, and my crystal ball said, wait a minute. You don't want to see your university close on your watch. You don't want to see the community colleges in your area devastated with less students going. You don't want to see dentists leaving your district. You don't want to see everything else that could happen.

"So I said, we're going to have to come back a different day with a different set of rules so that we can change the way we play this because it's not working now."

Phillips said he's getting out for two reasons: one, that he pledged to limit himself to two terms, and second, that a Republican candidate — Chris Miller of Oakland — has stepped up to replace him.

"They were able to find a gentleman who has conservative Christian values in Chris Miller. He's the guy who's running in the 110th now," Phillips said. "I like him. I met with him."

He said he believes he could have won a third term, even with the controversial tax increase and budget votes.

"I've had the super-ultra-right-wing conservatives make some comments, but basically it wasn't much. And I'm confident that I could have won again," Phillips said. "I've been in a couple parades where people came up to me and said, 'Thank you very much.' They understood that the budget crisis wasn't improving their livelihood or their lives. And most people understood. We could have held out until hell froze over, a tax increase was coming and more than likely probably larger. It was an illusion that a tax increase wasn't coming. C'mon."

Phillips said he won't retire early to give Miller an election advantage ("I'm going to finish my term. I believe that's the proper way to do it.") and that he has no regrets about his votes.

"I want people to know that's how I'm ending it. It's more important for me to have done what was right when it was right in my mind," he said.

He still sees himself an a strong Rauner ally.

"I still believe that the governor is still trying to do what's best in the long run for Illinois. I still agree with him on his major issues, that property taxes are killing businesses, that workers' compensation rates are too high. I know what they're doing to my business," he said. "And term limits. Sure, you look at the numbers now and how many are leaving the Legislature. What is it, 18 or 20? (Actually 27) So why do you need term limits? It's because the ones who should be termed are still going to be there. We've got to have term limits and fair mapping in Illinois.

"And I believe that we need to have a state that is right to work. I know when I first came out with that, no one from the public unions liked to hear that. But they've controlled for too long, and they've suppressed the basic taxpayer's rights. It's time we do something about that. Then you'll see growth in Illinois. That's why I'm with the governor. Now, do I agree with the methods? No, probably not. But the basic ingredients in the cake I did agree with. And I still will."

Harold money

Attorney general candidate Erika Harold's campaign fund is up to at least $53,787 by virtue of another wave of campaign contributions of $1,000 or more.

The Urbana Republican reported recent contributions from a number of people with local ties, including auctioneer Murray Wise, Dr. Teresa King, Tom Frasca, Linda Stark and engineer Mike Henneman, who gave $1,000 each, plus Champaign attorney Dave Sholem, who gave $2,000.

Harold's biggest donation so far is $34,183 in media production costs from the Illinois Republican Party.

Drury event

The Illini Democrats at the University of Illinois will hold a "meet and greet" with state Rep. Scott Drury, a Democratic candidate for attorney general, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. today at Lincoln Hall Room 1022. The event is open to the public.

Republican civil war

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, who has been one of his party's more independent voices in the era of Trump — several times voicing displeasure with the president — is getting a third Republican primary opponent for his trouble. And the chairman of the Republican State Central Committee in Kinzinger's district, John McGlasson of Pontiac, is heading the exploratory committee for James Marter, who is considering mounting a challenge to Kinzinger.

"I am supporting James Marter, a true conservative, because he is a family man, business owner, proponent of the Second Amendment and pro-life," McGlasson said.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at kacich@news-gazette.com.

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BruckJr wrote on September 27, 2017 at 2:09 pm

Phillips should move to the 22nd district where he can be at Madigan's beck and call every day.

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