Illinois House minority leader Jim Durkin speaks at SIU

By Shannon Allen, @ShannonAllen_DE

Salukis are known for being an independent and patient breed, which are important traits as the state budget impasse continues into its fifth month, according to Illinois House minority leader Jim Durkin.

Durkin (R-Western Springs) spoke Thursday about how to overcome the budget deadlock and the lack of jobs in the state for future generations.

Durkin, a former Illinois assistant attorney general and assistant state’s attorney in Cook County, has been the House Republican leader since 2013 and has been involved with state government for almost 20 years.

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As a graduate of Illinois State University and John Marshall Law School in Chicago, he recognizes the price of education has gone up while employment rates have dropped.

“When I was going through college, I was able to pay for school by working over the summers,” Durkin said. “That’s just not possible today, and I feel awful about that.”

Illinois unemployment rate is around 5 percent, the highest of all the neighboring states, Durkin said.

“People move away when they fear for their job,” Durkin said. “Less residents in Illinois means fewer dollars being spent.”

Durkin said in order to find a solution to the current budget impasse, Republicans and Democrats must put aside their differences, make sacrifices and work together.

“There is a pathway for us to get out of this impasse, but we need to cooperate with one another to get there,” Durkin said.

Also present at Durkin’s speech was SIU President Randy Dunn.

Dunn said it’s difficult to plan or make operational changes at SIU without knowing the long term effects.

“It’s hard to set a direction, but our challenge is to maintain ongoing work and to keep students [at SIU],” Dunn said.

Dunn agreed with Durkin that both political parties, especially Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, need to negotiate to achieve the optimal change this state needs.

Ian Ritchey, a junior from Champaign studying aviation management, attended the speech on behalf of his fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa with Mark Decker, a member of the Illinois State Legislature and Phi Sigma Kappa alumni.

“Durkin’s speech was an honest rundown on the current condition of the state and what needs to be done to get it moving in the right direction,” Ritchey said.

Durkin said although the state’s unemployment number is headed downward, there is still work to be done.

“I’m willing to make the sacrifices and tough calls that ensure that the generation in this room and the generation afterward don’t have to clean up the mess that was created years and years ago,” Durkin said.

Shannon Allen can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ShannonAllen_DE.

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