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Rep. Brady On COVID-19 Budget Woes, Transition Of Power

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Staff / WGLT
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State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, said "righting the ship" of Illinois' budget will be top priority when lawmakers return to Springfield in January.

Illinois lawmakers return to Springfield in January, staring down a change in House leadership, the economic fallout of the pandemic and unfinished business interrupted by COVID-19.

State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, said spearheading the state’s budget woes will be of the most concern--and that the state cannot rely on the federal government to right the ship.

“We find ourselves in a situation where the governor is talking about what needs to be done. And I agree from the standpoint of cuts, belt tightening and looking within ourselves first, before there's any other talk of revenue in this state,” Brady said.

Brady said lawmakers will need to scale back to the bare bones of what state government is required to provide. He said the priorities should be public safety, education and infrastructure.

Gov. JB Pritzker has said all of those areas are at risk of budget cuts, after voters rejected the graduated income tax amendment in November.

If that's the case, Brady said lawmakers will need to tread lightly.

“Come in with more of a surgical scalpel than trying to bring a chainsaw in it,” he said. “That surgical scalpel has to look at programs and the necessity of those programs in this timeframe of which we find so many challenges. What are we getting for the amount of money we're putting out into grants into different communities and cities?”

He said the legislature should avoid major cuts to constitutionally-mandated services by pulling out the “tentacles” state government has in areas where it doesn’t belong.

House speakership

It appears longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan could lack the necessary votes to retain the speakership when the 102nd General Assembly convenes. At least 19 Democrats have said they will not support Madigan. He needs at least 60 “yes” votes.

Brady said the fate of the speakership lies in the Democratic caucus’ hands. He said they may have to exhaust several potential candidates before landing on a replacement.

“One thing's for sure that whoever would step forward, I believe, obviously would be to the Democrats' benefit to have a unified front,” Brady said.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin has suggested he wields more support than Madigan. Brady said he holds out little hope that position will be handed to Republicans, adding the House is going to need a unifying voice to steer it through the challenges ahead.

State GOP

Brady said state Republicans also are in a need of a change--and the party leader's decision to step down from the post presents an opportunity.

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider plans to leave the post after six years.

Brady said it's a welcome fresh start.

"Ideas from women who have been involved in the political process and campaigns and the Republican platform,” he said. “Minority representation, I think, would be very good. And I think those types of characteristics are going to be important.”

Brady said the party will need to diversify if it wants to thrive. He said that could help the party grow and unite around fiscal issues.

Presidential election

Brady is among the central Illinois Republicans not ready to call the election for president-elect Joe Biden.

Brady noted he pursued a recount the first time he ran for office. He said President Trump has the right to exhaust his legal options.

Brady said it's not his place to decide whether those contests are legitimate.

"I don't know that it's been proven or disproven,” he said. “I believe that people believe that the election is over and work in favor for some it didn't work in favor for others. That's common election process. But I think it's time to move on."

Brady said once the courts have weighed in, he's all for a peaceful transfer of power.

He said the next administration will need to be thoughtful about restoring public trust in the election process.

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Dana Vollmer is a reporter with WGLT. Dana previously covered the state Capitol for NPR Illinois and Peoria for WCBU.