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Retired farmer in the running for House seat in the new 91st District

Retired farmer and insurance claims representative Jim Fisher is running for State Representative in the new 91st district.
Charlie Schlenker
Retired farmer and insurance claims representative Jim Fisher is running for state representative in the new 91st House district.

The new 91st Illinois House District is an open seat without an incumbent. That makes it attractive to candidates — and there will be primaries this summer in both major parties.

Jim Fisher is a retired farmer and insurance claims representative who lives west of Hudson. He's a former Unit 5 school board member.

“I think that I can bring to the Congress, or our state legislature, some very strong points. I am one that will go and fight for a particular issue or fight against ones that I think that we don't want to have. I'm not a career politician. I have worked with politics all the time that I've been here. I am a precinct committeeman. I circulate petitions for candidates that I believe in. And I thought, well OK, I'll give this one a try.

Fisher has competition in the GOP primary: Scott Preston, a Normal Town Council member.

Fisher noted he lives in the district and Preston doesn't yet. If he won, Preston would have to move into the district that stretches from Bloomington-Normal to Bartonville.

Fisher also said Preston has been on what he thinks is the wrong side of some votes.

“I am very conservative. I haven't done all of the research. I guess I need to do, but I know this. There are some things that on Normal council, that there's some tax issues that have been brought up and that Scott has not necessarily that I believe voted in the right way on those,” said Fisher.

In an email after a WGLT interview, Fisher clarified that his critique of Preston dealt with Preston's vote in favor of a tax levy that included increases funded by growth in property values. Fisher cited other media accounts critical of Preston.

At the time of the vote, Preston stressed he was not voting for a tax increase because the town's tax rate stayed the same.

“So, my point is, get rid of taxes," said Fisher. "Or, not get rid of them, but lower the taxes. And I this is one promise that I can make here as a candidate, that if I'm elected to that position, I will not vote for any bill or any legislation that would raise taxes again in the state of Illinois.”

Over time, inflationary growth tends to diminish the spending power of a given amount of money. WGLT asked Fisher how he would balance the state budget if he succeeded in holding the state to a flat dollar amount of tax revenue from the time he takes office.

“Well, some of the things that we would have to look at is where we're spending our money right now. There's some things that probably we shouldn't be involved in as a state or as a government, or something like that. I live (on) a small farm, the EPA — now I realize that EPA is federal — but there's also the Illinois portion as well. I can't even burn my field, which used to be a typical practice and farming. But I have to have permission in order to do that. So, those are just some things like some of the regulatory things that we need to bring under control,” said Fisher.

He also took aim at property taxes that are above average among the states.

“It's one of the highest in our nation, our property taxes that cost me to live here, what I have to pay in order just to live in my own house. It's my house, I pay for it, I live there and then I have to give the government in order for permission to stay. To me those are the important things that I need to address,” said Fisher.

The bulk of property taxes go to fund local school districts. Some states fund schools with state money derived from income taxes or other revenue sources, and have lower property taxes. Fisher did not say how schools would be funded if Illinois property taxes were reduced by state law.

“Well, I think a lot of it has to do is with what the schools are spending their money on. And we need to have school board members on there that are fiscally responsible, understand how the taxes are being spent, and adjusting any necessary things in the school district or school system that they need to do," he said.

The bulk of any school district spending is for teachers. Fisher did not say how he would pay for personnel if there were to be a substantial reduction in property taxes.

He said programs would have to be eliminated.

"Do we really want those kinds of programs ... I think one of the ones right now is the CRT (critical race theory), that's one that is in some of the schools,” said Fisher.

Critical race theory, in fact, is not taught in Illinois schools, though diversity, equity and inclusion and Black history curriculum are taught.

“Well, another one was whenever everything's done online, with your computers,” said Fisher. “I see that everything seems to be done on a computer anymore….I'm not saying that we have to eliminate them, but those are just some things that we definitely would want to look at before we spend millions of dollars for all the students to have a computer so that they can do their homework or play video games.”

In addition to the Republican primary in the 91st district, Karla Bailey-Smith and Sharon Chung will run in the Democratic primary. Chung is a McLean County Board member. Bailey-Smith runs a painting business and works in theater.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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