OPINION: ‘Prairie State Promise’ is a vision for a better Illinois

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We live in one of the most politically dysfunctional states in the union. Our lawmakers in Springfield tax us too much, fritter away too much of our hard-earned money on wasteful spending, and devote most of their energies to serving their cronies in the political class instead of the people of Illinois.

If we want this situation to change, we have to make it happen. To make it happen, we need a vision of a better way, and a plan for how to get there.

The Prairie State Promise offers both. It is an agenda for change that can transform our state by eliminating barriers to opportunity and holding politicians and public officials accountable. And it addresses the issues that Illinoisans care most about.

It’s an agenda that offers practical, common-sense solutions to our greatest challenges, and empowers people — rather than politicians — to make decisions about the policies that affect our lives and our families’ well-being.

Health care and education

Let’s start with health care.

Our laws are replete with barriers that allow political insiders to restrict access to health care, including certificate-of-need laws, licensing requirements that block qualified health care practitioners from serving patients, and restrictions on telehealth.

You know better than politicians what health care plan works for you. The Prairie State Promise urges lawmakers to eliminate these barriers and stop the gradual government takeover of health care, and give Illinoisans a personal option that gives patients control over their care at prices they can afford.

Another issue near the top of every Illinois family’s agenda is education.

They key to success is allowing all students to access the educational environment that best fits their unique needs. To achieve this, we need policies that allow families to choose among a variety of educational opportunities, whether a traditional public school, a public charter school, a private school, remote learning, homeschooling, or any other option that allows students to unlock their unlimited potential.

We also need systems that allow students to receive credit for learning wherever it occurs, because while the learning that takes place inside the traditional classroom is important, we know that students can learn through a diversity of approaches and from a variety of experiences.

Taxes and spending

Empowering parents matters, and so does empowering taxpayers.

Illinoisans are saddled with the highest combined state and local taxes in the nation. One reason is that the political class represents itself instead of the people.

One way to remedy this is to give every voter a voice in the issues that matter most. That means allowing voter referendums on reducing taxes.

And while the people are weighing in on the question of taxes, the politicians should stop spending money we don’t have.

State and local lawmakers need to face up to the pension crisis they created and stop making the problem worse. That means politicians should stop serving the political class and start serving the people who elected them.

If politicians refuse to deal with the problem, they should put pension reform to the voters in the form of a constitutional amendment.

Safe communities and second chances

We can keep our communities safe and give people reentering their communities a second chance.

Gaining and sustaining a job is one of the most critical factors in a person successfully reentering society after going through the criminal justice system. However, many occupational licenses create arbitrary restrictions to gaining a license for those with a criminal record. Illinois needs to follow the lead of other states and reform our occupational licensing schemes to reduce these unnecessary barriers.

Working hand-in-hand with that policy is the expunging of convictions for infractions that are no longer considered illegal.

And there are far too many people in prison for far too long, particularly those convicted of low-level, nonviolent offenses. While in prison, the focus should be on rehabilitation, to help ensure they can reenter society and make a living.

Corporate welfare and political corruption

Corporate welfare and corruption go hand in hand. They feed off each other.

Corruption and corporate welfare divert public resources from the people who need them most to those who collude with the political class. They lead to higher taxes, diminished public services, and a destruction of the people’s trust in public institutions.

Illinois needs increased penalties for public corruption, more transparency in the legislature, and an end to corporate welfare at the state and local levels. Success in business should be determined by serving customers, not politicians.

We deserve elected officials who are open and honest with the public and provide solutions that empower the people of Illinois. That’s what the Prairie State Promise is about,

We’ll work with anyone who shares the vision of a Land of Lincoln that is also a land of opportunity for every citizen.

Jason Heffley is state director of Americans for Prosperity-Illinois. Americans for Prosperity is a national conservative political advocacy group founded in 2004.

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