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Paying attention

When Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner was still a candidate for the state’s highest office, he vowed to pay more attention to downstate concerns than his predecessors. Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti said Thursday that she and Rauner continue to make downstate development a priority.

“When we heard that people south of I-80 felt forgotten, we pledged to be advocates for the entire state,” Sanguinetti said during a Friday afternoon roundtable at Parklanes bowling center in Newton.

The roundtable included city and county officials, econonic development professionals, business owners and members of the Jasper County CEO high school class.

Sanguinetti, who hails from the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, said Jasper County was the 92nd county she had visited in less than a year as lieutenant governor. She said Rauner endorses her frequent travels.

“Bruce and I are on the same page when it comes to downstate,” she said.

Sanguinetti ticked off a number of issues that the Rauner administration is trying to solve to stimulate econonic development and business retention. One problem, she said, is the number of governmental units in Illinois — 6,968 in 2010, according to federal census figures.

“We want to reduce some of those,” she said, adding that reducing those entities would decrease the duplication of services — and save money.

Several people at the meeting expressed concerns.

Newton Mayor Mark Bolander, for example, wondered aloud about the future of the Ameren Illinois power plant east of town. Bolander said there are concerns the coal-fired plant, long the county’s largest private employer, will fall victim to increasing environmental regulation.

“I’m not sure it will be there 20 years from now, or even five years from now,” Bolander said.

Sanguinetti said that concern is not unique to Jasper County.

“There’s a community college in southern Illinois that has a coal mining program with a shortage of students,” she said, adding that the concern about the future of mineral extraction largely driven by environmental issues.

“But we want a robust energy portfolio,” Sanguinetti said. “I don’t think environmental issues are mutually exclusive to growing the energy industry.”

Sanguinetti also addressed the lack of a state budget due to an impasse between the Republican governor and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.

“They (the legislature) presented us with a budget that had a $5 billion shortfall,” she said. “Your governor and I will never agree to that kind of budget.”

Sanguinetti added that the governor won’t sign a budget in which he does not have input.

“We told them, ‘You have the supermajority, but if you want us on board, you need to include us,” she said.

The lieutenant governor said two of the major sticking points continue to be disagreements over workmen’s compensation and lawsuit reform.

Posted: Friday, October 23, 2015 10:57 pm

Bill Grimes Daily News

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