Kirk Unveils Southern Illinois Agenda

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Kirk: “We need a plan to create jobs and expand opportunities in Southern Illinois”

Carbondale, IL – Congressman Mark Kirk joined Carbondale Mayor Brad Cole, State Representative Mike Bost and community leaders to unveil his Southern Illinois Agenda to highlight the priorities of the region.
“From Metropolis to Chester to Mt. Vernon, I have traveled across Southern Illinois and the rest of the state talking about how to create jobs and get our economy back on track. We must continue to support Southern Illinois’ economic engine in SIU and the region’s rich agricultural industry as well as promote innovative local efforts to expand infrastructure and create jobs,” Kirk said. “The best thing we can do for Southern Illinois right now is support pro-growth, job creation policies to turn our economy around and put people back to work.”

The Southern Illinois Agenda is a nine-point plan to create jobs and expand opportunities in Southern Illinois. Congressman Kirk worked with Southern Illinois leaders to develop the agenda. Below is Congressman Kirk’s Southern Illinois Agenda.


The Southern Agenda

1)      Support Southern Illinois’ Economic Engine – SIU
Southern Illinois University is a major higher education institution dedicated to teaching and research, but to Southern Illinois it is so much more. Employing more than 6,000 people, SIU is the region’s largest employer. From infrastructure upgrades like Saluki Way to improving programs to help increase the quality of education provided, SIU has greater potential to boost incomes and lower unemployment.  As a Senator, Mark Kirk will work to boost federal National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and Department of Defense research at SIU.  He will also propose that SIU become a testbed for public-private partnerships to bring venture capital to foster the transition of university research into Southern Illinois companies.  Finally, as co-Chairman of the House U.S.-China Working Group — and expected Senate counterpart — Mark Kirk will work to improve SIU’s linguistic and commercial ties to the China market so that students from SIU will be heavily recruited by U.S.-based exporters.
2)      Educate the Workforce

Beyond bringing new jobs to Southern Illinois, it is imperative to focus on educating and training our workforce.  As a Senator, Mark Kirk will support community colleges like John A. Logan, Southwestern Illinois College, Rend Lake College and Shawnee Community College.  He will also work to make college more affordable by enacting the 401(Kids) Family Savings Act of 2009, authored by Congresswoman Judy Biggert (R-Hinsdale).  This legislation, cosponsored by Congressman Kirk, allows any individual – including a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle – to set aside a total of $2,000 annually per child in a 401(Kids) Savings Account. Like a Roth IRA, the money is contributed to the account after taxes, interest accumulates tax-free, and the balance can be used tax-free for approved purposes, including education expenses, the purchase of a first home or retirement.
3)      Supporting Illinois Coal
Illinois has the third largest total coal resources of any state second only to Montana in terms of demonstrated reserve base, as well as the largest reported bituminous coal and strippable bituminous coal resources of any state in the United States. Recoverable coal reserves in Illinois (38 billion tons) account for almost one-eighth of the total U.S. coal reserves and one-quarter of the nation’s bituminous coal reserves.
After touring Coulterville with Congressman Shimkus as well as the Galatia mine, Congressman Kirk understands the coal industry is a major component of Illinois’ economy that was severely hampered by government regulation.  Congressman Kirk supports scientific innovators and job creators like the FutureGen project which will help produce dramatically cleaner electricity from coal while simultaneously boosting our state’s coal industry and turning our economy around.
Supporting mine mouth technology as instituted by the Prairie State Energy Campus is essential to helping solve our energy needs efficiently and in an environmentally friendly way.  Ground was broken in 2007 for the Prairie State Energy Campus, a 1,600 megawatt power station in Washington County that is owned by several municipal and rural electric power providers. A projected one million tons of coal per year for the plant will come directly from the nearby Lively Grove.
4)       Standing Up for Health Care in Southern Illinois
Maintaining a commitment to quality health care becomes increasingly important as growth rates for the 65+ age range increase across the country and in Southern Illinois. Healthcare in Southern Illinois is important to give the people the access to the critical care they need.  As a Senator, Mark Kirk will support health care providers like Southern Illinois Healthcare who, with 2,700 full and part-time employees, is vital to the health and economic survival of our region. Memorial Hospital in Carbondale employs over 1,300 and Heartland Regional Medical Center in Marion employs 600. Mark Kirk will fight congressional cuts to Medicare and hospitals – and work to improve the Medicare reimbursement system.
With Illinois’ state medical liability reform law recently struck down, Congress should pass federal medical liability reform to stop the exodus of doctors from the practice of medicine.  In Southern Illinois, lawsuit abuse sent the costs of medical liability insurance soaring driving out neurosurgeons and OB/GYNs.  Federal medical liability reform will lower the cost of health care and expand access to more Americans.  
5)      Combating Methamphetamine and Other Drugs
While all of Illinois bears the burden of this destructive drug, the prevalence of meth use is in rural areas of the state not commonly associated with illicit drug use. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, methamphetamine is the primary drug threat to central and Southern Illinois and is increasing in prevalence in the Chicago area.  In April, the Southern Illinoisan reported that meth and heroin use are on the rise in the Southern Illinois region.   As a congressman, Mark Kirk has long supported the Metropolitan Enforcement Group, a multi-jurisdictional law enforcement task force concentrating in illegal drugs, gangs and weapons offenses.  As a Senator, he will continue support the needs of local, state and federal law enforcement to crack down on meth labs, sales and addiction.
6)      Investing in Transportation and Infrastructure
Transportation and infrastructure investment are vital to economic growth in Illinois. Much of our state’s economy also depends on the system of locks and dams along Illinois’ rivers to bring products to market.  However, this system was built long ago for smaller and older ships. As Senator, Mark Kirk will work to upgrade and expand our river infrastructure to bring our lock-and-dam system into the 21st century. By supporting the Olmsted Locks and Dam project we will replace two deteriorating lock and dams along the Ohio River with a single facility that will tremendously improve barge and grain traffic along our rivers.  The new locks will operate more efficiently and pass tows with fewer delays and provide hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits to the country. 
By upgrading the Ohio River byways and linking Golconda, Metropolis, Mound City and Cairo by intermodal transport, we can create good jobs and put our economy back on track.
7)      Standing up for Southern Illinois Small Businesses
With unemployment over 10 percent, the number one priority in Southern Illinois is promoting pro-growth policies to create jobs and put the people of Southern Illinois back to work. Small businesses account for 98.4 percent of statewide employers and are the engine of our economy.
Congressman Kirk has announced a Small Business Bill of Rights to protect small businesses from higher taxes, rising health care and energy costs and increasing government red tape. The plan, which is endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business, would provide small business employers with capital gains, AMT and death tax relief, cut government red tape, lower health care costs and protect a worker’s right to a secret ballot in a union election. 
The Small Business Bill of Rights will:

  • Protect secret ballots in union elections
  • Lower health costs with lawsuit reforms and interstate competition
  • Lower energy costs with credits for efficient equipment and hybrids
  • Permit children to continue business with low/no death tax
  • Exempt small businesses from capital gains tax for 10 years
  • Make immigration laws easy to comply with
  • Create a Patent Office fast lane for small business innovation
  • SBA to limit federal paperwork for small businesses to 200 hours annually
  • Prevent AMT from taxing the middle class
  • Reduce deficit to encourage jobs and improve credit

8)      Supporting Agriculture in Southern Illinois
With major exports of corn, soybean and wheat along with a supporting industry of manufacturing, research and trade, agriculture is the backbone of the Illinois economy – and a major employer in Southern Illinois.   Congressman Kirk strongly supports expanding American energy to create jobs and lower costs. He is a strong supporter of ethanol and biodiesel to expand economic opportunities for Illinois farmers – especially our corn and soybean producers.  Mark Kirk is a leader in Congress in helping small and medium-sized businesses – especially farmers and support industries – export their products to foreign markets like China.  As a Senator, Mark will fight to expand the Foreign Commercial Service, the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Development Agency – key agencies that help west-central Illinois farmers and businesses establish and expand exports to growing markets.
9)      Supporting the Region’s Rich Tourism Industry
Unfortunately due to an out-of-control state budget the Southern Illinois Tourism Development Office was forced to close its doors.  Serving 22 counties the tourism office was vital to highlighting the region’s rich tourism industry. With its abundant parks, lakes, and wineries, Southern Illinois provides a perfect outlet for those seeking outdoor activities.  Not only does tourism present people with opportunities to relax, it also a major component of Southern Illinois’ economic engine, providing jobs to the region.  As a Senator, Mark Kirk will work to protect our natural resources like the Shawnee National Forest and ensure that Southern Illinois tourism thrives in the 21stcentury.

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