Rep. Chesney not convinced $60 million in arts spending was how capital bill was sold to voters
Republican state Rep. Andrew Chesney (Freeport) says he stands firmly opposed to the smoke-and-mirrors tactics he witnessed during his first spring session in Springfield.
“We’ve got to stop with the gimmicks and start with reestablishing our priorities,” the first-term lawmaker told the NW Illinois News. “When we cut taxes, more people are going to come to our state and it’s going to lower the cost for everyone, and it is a good thing to put more of the money into the pockets of those that work the hardest.”
Chesney laments that nothing about the new state budget moves the needle in that direction, and some of the frivolous costs included just make it look worse to hardworking taxpayers. Of the $45 billion that has been established for the capital spending plan, $60 million has been set aside for arts-related expenditures such as theaters, museums and opera houses across the state.
“Many people that voted for this bill didn’t even take the time to read it, this was literally dropped at the last minute in order to make good on campaign promises and that’s not good policy,” Chesney said. “It doesn’t surprise me. I support the arts. I think most people support arts, but I don’t know that that’s necessarily in line with the capital bill and how that was sold to the public.”
Chesney said he remains convinced that the overall best solution is simple.
“I think that we need to live within our means,” he said. “Right now, people are fleeing our state because of taxation. This is just another example of how the middle class gets hammered; the working poor gets hammered and I just don’t support it.”
Of the $60 million, up to $50 million is set to be overseen by the Illinois Arts Council, of which House Speaker Mike Madigan's wife serves as chairperson for the board of directors. The remaining $10 million will go toward line-item grants, where the recipients of the monies have already been designated.
“I think voters are frustrated,” Chesney said. “They have every right to be frustrated. This does not reestablish trust among politicians in Springfield and those that send them down there. Right now we have record-high budgets, we have record-high revenues and we still have not made good on property-tax relief or driving down the cost of tuition.”