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Small-Business Leader Says State Must Repair Rocky Relationship

 Elliot Richardson speaking
Mary Cullen
Small Business Advocacy Council President Elliot Richardson speaking at the McLean County Chamber of Commerce's Economic Vision Luncheon on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018.

The leader of the Small Business Advocacy Council said the near 800 day-long state budget impasse set small businesses up for a rocky relationship with Illinois government.

SBAC President and Co-Founder Elliot Richardson spoke Tuesday at the McLean County Chamber of Commerce Economic Vision Luncheon about policy changes the SBAC is pushing.

Richardson said lots of small businesses lost confidence in Illinois government after not receiving money owed to them during the state budget impasse that ended in August last year.

Part of that lack of trust, he said, stems from a history of gerrymandered districts.

"Politicians should not choose their voters. Voters should choose their politicians," Richardson said. "And when small-business owners in the small-business community feel they do not have a voice because their vote doesn't matter, they're going to be very remiss to grow and to expand."

Richardson said putting an end to gerrymandering will instill confidence in entrepreneurs to expand in the state.

But with J.B. Pritzker taking office next month, Illinois will be controlled largely by Democrats. Whose to say with the power, Democrats will draw fairer maps in 2021?

"For us, the new administration doesn't matter," Richardson said. "We're going to continue to push hard for redistricting reform and try to bring everybody along with us."

Richardson pointed how Pritzker has talked about reform redistricting in a positive way.

"We feel we have to push hard," he said. "We have to hold everybody's feet to the fire, so that districts are drawn in a manner which is contiguous, which makes sense, and which includes all voters."

Richardson said fair maps can be drawn through an independent commission, not beholden to party ties. He said redistricting makes politicians rely on the faith of their constituents rather than party leaders.

"If you're in a district and you're a politician and it's so safe that you don't have to strongly support a good small business initiative, then you might not," he said. "So what this does is it puts the power in the hands of people to move their politicians to support good public policy."

Other state issues the SBAC would like to see reformed in the coming years, Richardson said, are workers compensation legislation and Illinois' massive pension backlog.

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