Edgar talks about political climate, pensions and more at Effingham conference | Local News
Former Governor Jim Edgar spoke of his successes, failures and hopes for the future of Illinois and the United States during a speech and discussion this week at the Effingham Performance Center.
The visit of the two-term Republican governor, who served from 1991 to 1999, was organized by the Effingham Public Library with the aim of giving people in the community a chance to communicate better and find common ground the ones with the others. Amanda McKay, the director of the library, said Edgar was the best person they could think of to deliver this message.
“Customers will come and share with us that our current method of communication makes it harder for people to connect,” McKay said. “There are a lot of factors at play between trying to find common ground with each other. We would have clients who would come and share that with us. “I feel like I’m losing friends because of things posted on social media” or “It’s harder to talk to people about difficult issues. “
“We took a moment and tried to see if there was anything we could do.”
What they came up with was to invite Edgar to Effingham, a place he felt had a special place in his heart for a reason: Right after his marriage to his wife, Brenda, he spent the first time. night of their honeymoon in a hotel room in Effingham.
“We were at the Ramada Inn, which to us was downtown, that was living,” said Edgar. “It was a pretty exciting night; we spent a night in Effingham, then drove to Springfield, stayed overnight and went to see Lincoln’s Home. I think she started to wonder what kind of person she married.
From that first night in Effingham, Edgar pursued a long and rich political career that rose from the General Assembly to the Office of the Secretary of State and to the post of Governor. He explained his philosophy for working with politicians who may disagree with him on important issues, breaking it down into three important factors: compromise, civility and compassion.
Edgar believes that in order for government to work properly, people have to compromise on issues. While he has had to strike deals and find common ground with Democrats for most of his tenure – Democrats controlling at least one chamber of the General Assembly for six of his eight years in office. service – he also found himself making deals with his fellow Republicans, as they spanned all corners of the state and came from different and divergent regions.
“In order to be able to do something, you will probably have to find common ground with the people you work with,” Edgar said. “(It’s) even though you’re governor and your party controls the legislature – which I did for two of my eight years. Let me tell you, it was just as difficult as when my party did not control the legislature.
However, he also believes that compromise cannot happen if people are not civilians. Edgar believes that the kind of push-pull politics so common in today’s fast-paced, social-media-driven climate does not provide a backdrop for anything to be done in the legislative arena.
“If you are a person who always screams, always denounces the other person and says that they are not very smart or implies that they are a con artist, you will not have much luck when the time comes. to try to find common ground with that person and get them to agree to something that you want to do, ”said Edgar.“ Unfortunately in our society today there is a lot of yelling and shouting. name calling, and there isn’t as much listening as what needs to go on. “
Finding common ground and showing civility can help be compassionate with people, he said. Edgar believes the government should provide help to people who cannot afford help and warned that if governments do not show compassion people can lose their lives as a result.
“The government must have compassion for those who really need it,” Edgar said. “We are fighting in Springfield and Washington and they say the federal government may not have the capacity to pay the bills. Who does it hurt? It doesn’t really hurt those at the top; it hurts those below.
Edgar explained how effective government can work for the people through a story he told about a ribbon cut he made in Chicago in the middle of the 1994 gubernatorial election. his car back to his office, he was greeted by a man who said he withdrew his welfare check during budget negotiations during his first year in office. What happened next took the then governor by surprise.
“Before I could say anything, he said, ‘You took out my welfare check and that was the best thing you could have done (for me),” ”Edgar said. “We (the legislature and the governor) said, ‘You can keep your (welfare) check for six months if you attend a vocational training program.’ It was the compromise and it allowed me to reduce some expenses. He said: ‘I wanted to keep this check, so I went to vocational training. I have a job (and) I can’t tell you how proud I am when I come home at night and my little girl knows I went to work.
A speech on his philosophy and how government should work for the people led to a discussion section, with questions posed by students in Jim Hammer’s social studies class at Effingham High School. Many of these questions revolved around how Edgar would respond to various issues in modern politics, from COVID-19 to the economy. He also advised young people looking to get their foot in the door in politics to get involved as they can.
“We have a lot of very bright kids,” Edgar said. “I spent 15 years teaching on University of Illinois campuses across the state (and) kids today are a lot smarter than we were in years. 1960, when I was in high school. Unfortunately, many children today do not see government as the way to effect change. They care about their community and their politics, but they don’t want to be part of it.
“One of the things I suggest to them: get involved in a campaign. Find someone you think is a good fit and see if you like them. You will probably become addicted, it is very addicting.
While Edgar took the time to brag about his accomplishments, including the $ 1.5 billion surplus he provided to the state when he left office, he defended himself against the consequences. of its decisions. Most notably, he championed the response to state funding of pensions during his tenure, as it was he who enacted the “Edgar Ramp,” widely blamed for the underfunding of pensions that led to the crisis. the last decade.
“This (review) came from the (Bruce) Rauner people when they were mad at me and started a lot of things,” Edgar said. “We had no system to pay our pensions (in 1994). Our pensions were so bad and we were coming out of the recession in 1994. When I left office in 1999, the pension funds were at the highest level they had ever been. Two years later, they started to descend.
“Maybe you can argue that instead of 10 years we should have done five, so this ramp is increasing. I wish I could have put $ 1.5 billion in it. I still think it is. how you’re going to get by, putting that money in. If they hadn’t done these things in the first decade of the 21st century, then I think we’d be in better shape.
While Edgar backed Democrat Joe Biden for president in 2020, he remains a Republican at heart. He spoke several times during the speech about not spending the money that you do not have, even in government. He’s also optimistic about the state’s potential, imploring people not to complain so much about what’s wrong with Illinois and to start talking about all of the many advantages that the Land of Lincoln has over d others in the country, from diversity education to transport.
“I don’t think we value what we have,” Edgar said. “I think we spend too much time complaining, especially about other parts of the state, our neighbors. We need to be grateful to our neighbors (and) other parts of the state. Our weakness is that we don’t appreciate what we have in Illinois – we don’t think as Illinois. Too often we think, “We are people from the bottom of the state”, or “We are from the city” or “We are from the suburbs. We have to get away from it. “