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Sen. Sullivan speaks to MC class

Mike Diamond
Sen. Sullivan speaks to Monmouth College students
Sen. John Sullivan (D-47th) visited Monmouth College lecturer Eric Hanson’s “Issues Seminar of Local and State Politics” class last week to help students further their understanding of Illinois state government issues.

Also sitting in on the class taught by Hanson, a 1998 Monmouth graduate who serves as Monmouth’s city administrator, were Monmouth mayor Rod Davies (a 1974 MC graduate) and President Mauri Ditzler.

Sullivan said the most important issue concerning a majority of Illinois citizens is the $13 billion state deficit. He discussed five options to bail the state out of debt: generate revenue by raising taxes; make cuts in programs and services; reform public policies; borrow money; or a combination of these options. A wide range of opinions from state legislators has made the budget discussions very long and tedious, he added.

Legislators are currently working on the 2011 budget, which will go into effect July 1. Sullivan told the students that Congress is discussing how to bail the state out of debt while also trying to work with a nation in a recession. He explained that because of obligations to the federal government and miscellaneous fees, almost half of the state’s budget is “untouchable” money, leaving only $26 billion of the $50 billion budget available for apportionment. While he expressed concern about apportionment, Sullivan said that the two most critical areas of the state budget are health care and education.

“There are no easy choices,” Sullivan said of the budgetary decisions. “We have a duty in Springfield to act on this fiscal crisis. It will take many years, but we need to start bailing out the state.”

One issue that concerns a majority of Monmouth College students is the funding for the Illinois MAP (Monetary Award Program) Grant. Sullivan replied that he was not sure how much money will be apportioned for funding Illinois MAP Grants during the next fiscal year.

Another topic raised was the diversity of Illinois legislators and the difficulties concerning the representation between urban and rural areas of the state. Other state issues that concerned the students included highway projects and concealed weapon laws.

Sullivan, who has served in the state legislature since 2002, also spoke about his personal interactions with President Barack Obama when he was a colleague in the state senate.

“He had great leadership skills,” Sullivan said of Obama’s work at the state level. “His communication skills and etiquette were one of a kind.”

An active supporter of Obama’s presidential campaign, Sullivan said he attended the inauguration as a personal guest of the president.