ELMHURST – State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, defended his effectiveness as a politician while outlining his plan to turn Illinois into a destination economy Monday at an Elmhurst College event.
While Dillard has been working for the Illinois government for more than two decades, he said he isn't part of the problem.
"I believe I'm the solution to the state's problems," Dillard said.
The Assistant Senate Republican Leader spoke as part of the college's ongoing Fixing Illinois lecture series. Dillard reminded the audience of his previous work as Chief of Staff to former Illinois governor Jim Edgar in the early 1990s.
"I know what a state that runs on all cylinders looks like," Dillard said.
His lecture focused on using Illinois' existing resources like agriculture, infrastructure and institutions of higher education to their full potential. Dillard blamed poor management for the state's current debt, unemployment and pension crises.
"We are the agriculture, industrial, cultural and the financial services capital of the Midwest, and for us to have these numbers is absolutely, absolutely unacceptable," Dillard said.
Dillard also talked about the need to give suburban and especially rural Illinois a voice in government and not allow Chicago to dictate legislation.
"It's really apparent when I travel downstate that downstate Illinois really feels like they've been left out of the equation," Dillard said.
Tyler Ferguson of Oak Park is a downstate Mattoon native who attended Dillard's lecture. He said Dillard's comments about rural Illinois were "a welcome message."
Dillard also championed for both sides of the aisle to work together to restore Illinois' economy. He agreed with Gov. Pat Quinn on severity of the pension problem.
"We need a state that's for all of us," Dillard said.
Sadaf Siddiqui, a political science major at Elmhurst College, said she was familiar with most of the topics Dillard brought up. Still, she appreciated his suggestion that Democrats and Republicans work together.
"Those are the kind of politicians I like," said Siddiqui, a junior from Glen Ellyn.
Dillard also answered questions from the audience about pension reform, gambling legislation and Medicaid. He argued that cutting down on Medicaid fraud could save the state billions of dollars and didn't think additional casinos and gambling outlets were permanent solutions.
His plan to reform the pension system included increasing current employees' contributions to the system, decreasing cost of living adjustments and moving back the retirement age.
"It's time we have a governor or somebody with common sense, and I just happen to know who that somebody is," Dillard said.