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Why Sen. Sally Turner voted against the new state budget, despite liking parts of it

 Sally Turner
Illinois Senate Republicans
Republican State Sen. Sally Turner voted against it. She represents southeast Bloomington and smaller communities such as Downs, LeRoy and Heyworth.

Gov. JB Pritzker has signed a new state budget that he calls balanced and compassionate. It sends more money to early childhood and K-12 education plus MAP grants, which will make it easier for more students to attend college.

Republican State Sen. Sally Turner voted against it. She represents southeast Bloomington and smaller communities such as Downs, LeRoy and Heyworth. WGLT recently interviewed Turner in her district office in Lincoln for a recap of the spring legislative session.

Turner said she voted against the budget – along with her GOP colleagues – for several reasons. She said they didn’t have enough time to review the final proposed budget after it came together – “and it’s usually a guess that we don’t know what some of those things are.”

“There were many things in there I didn’t agree with,” Turner said.

One of them was the $110 million set aside for Welcoming Centers, which help immigrants access services and get financial assistance. The Immigration Project operates one in Normal.

“I know a lot of senior citizens who are suffering terribly – they eek by on their Social Security check. And now gas is higher, food is higher, their electric bill is higher, their water bill is higher,” Turner said. “I think we should do more things to assist them, and perhaps less things that are individual areas that people can go to and get these services who are not our citizens.”

Turner said she would have liked to see more money go to services for the developmentally disabled – echoing comments from another McLean County state senator, Tom Bennett.

There were parts of the budget that Turner said she liked that would have won her support in isolation, were they not part of the comprehensive spending plan.

The budget increases state dollars going to the K-12 funding formula by $350 million – the amount called for annually in state law. Turner praised that increase, as well as funding bumps for state colleges and universities and to state scholarship and grant programs.

“K-12 is needing more help for many reasons, but one of them is they’re having an influx of new people coming into Illinois, and they’re gonna need help,” Turner said.

Fentanyl strips

Turner and her Republican colleagues are in the superminority. Turner said the most important thing she did during the spring session was to get a bill passed that will expand access to potentially life-saving fentanyl testing strips. The small strips of paper can detect the presence of highly lethal fentanyl in all different kinds of drugs and drug forms. It allows pharmacists and retailers to sell the strips over the counter to the public.

“We had a family member that went through that – who did not intend to die, and it happened. And it’s something we’ve become passionate about,” Turner said.

There were 25 drug-related deaths in McLean County in 2022, many involving fentanyl.

Nuclear power moratorium

Turner also supported a bill that ends a ban on new nuclear power plant construction, which has been in place since 1987. The proposal received bipartisan support, with some saying nuclear energy is essential for Illinois to become a carbon-free state.

“We need more sources of good, clean power, and nuclear energy produces a lot of power, and very clean. Clinton (nuclear plant) is in my district, which is the next county over in DeWitt County. And they have a nuclear power plant that we've had absolutely no problems whatsoever with, and they do a great job there.

“Also, these small, modular nuclear power plants can go in where coal was. So if it's still the mindset of our federal government and of our state government to move away from coal, if that continues, then we can place these in some of the old coal facilities and have them produce energy. The grid’s already there, the power sources already there, they can go ahead and do that source in that same area where they were. So that's, that's a plus.

“If we’re experimenting with solar and wind, why not add in nuclear?”

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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