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Davis Criticizes Pritzker’s Handling Of Unemployment Benefits During Champaign Stop

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U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis R-IL) talks to members of his Ag Advisory Coalition at the Champaign County Farm Bureau office on Monday in Champaign.

CHAMPAIGN – Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis hasn’t said he’s running for governor. But the 13th District U.S. representative sounded like someone who might, during a meeting with farmers in Champaign on Monday.

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At a meeting of his Agriculture Advisory Coalition, Davis blamed Governor J.B. Pritzker for problems in the state’s handling of unemployment claims. Those include long waits for unemployment benefits, and delays in dealing with fraudulent claims, like one made in Davis’ name last December.

Speaking with reporters after the meeting at the Champaign County Farm Bureau office in Champaign, Davis accused Pritzker of failing to make good use of federal funding provided in the CARES Act to process those claims.

“Governor Pritzker,” said Davis, “what did you do with the 42 million dollars in just administrative fees, that we gave you last spring, to set up an unemployment system that’s going to work?”

Davis has been mentioned as a possible Republican candidate for governor in 2022. In January, reporter  Tony Arnold with Chicago public radio station WBEZ put Davis on his list of nine potential GOP candidates who might challenge Governor J.B. Pritzker. Arnold said Davis might be especially likely to run, if Illinois’ congressional districts are redrawn by the Democratic majority in the General Assembly to make his reelection unlikely. Davis has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2012.

When Davis tweeted his original criticisms of Pritzker back in in December, the governor accused him of “sniping without helping,” according to news reports.  When asked by a reporter on Monday if he was considering a run for governor, Davis said he would “never say never”.

Davis On Infrastructure

Also during his visit with agricultural advisers on Monday, Davis discussed efforts by the Biden administration to find common ground on a new infrastructure bill to fund work on roads, bridges and waterways. President Biden met recently with members of Congress from both parties on the topic. That meeting included Davis, who is the ranking Republican on the Highways and Transit Subcommittee of the House Transportation Committee.

Davis says a major infrastructure bill could win bipartisan support in Washington. But he says the tricky part is deciding how to pay for it.

The Taylorville Republican says the motor fuel tax isn’t enough to fund the nation’s infrastructure needs. But he thinks a tax based on vehicle miles will be opposed by the Democrats’ left wing. And Davis opposes turning to income tax revenue to fund infrastructure, saying it would “set a terrible precedent”.

Instead, Davis proposes creating what he calls a “401(k) of sources” for funding infrastructure work, bringing together a wide range of funding mechanisms that goes beyond gasoline and income taxes.

“At some point, let’s have a discussion of what other sources could come into play, like public-private partnerships, like asset recycling,” said Davis. “Those are the types of infrastructure investments that I think could lead to bipartisan agreements and principled compromise.”

Davis also referred to legislation he announced last week that he believes could lower infrastructure costs by shortening the permitting and environmental review process for major infrastructure projects. His “One Federal Decision” Act would, among other things, limit to two years the environmental reviews for infrastructure projects that now take an average of seven years to complete, “so that the sort of the project’s overall cost is not impacted as much by constant environmental reviews”.

Davis calls the idea a “common sense regulatory approach” that could win bipartisan support.

Vilsack: Davis’ 2nd Favorite Ag Secretary

Davis says he looks forward to a good relationship with the new Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, who previously held the office during the Obama administration. The two met together on Friday.

“We talked about some of the [USDA] office closures,” said David, “and how that’s impacting our farmers here, if they want to go sign up for different programs with the FSA [Farm Service Agency] or the NRCS [National Resources Conservation Service], or Rural Development.”

Davis said if he couldn’t have Sonny Purdue as secretary of agriculture (Purdue held the office during the Trump administration), and if a Democrat occupied the White House, then Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, was his next choice. 

“We had a great working relationship during the four years that we worked together under the Obama administration”, said Davis of his relationship with Vilsack, “and I’m looking forward to working with him on a lot of issues that are important to his home state, my home state.”

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Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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