With less than three weeks remaining in the spring legislative session, State Senator Craig Wilcox (R-McHenry) stood with several Senate Republicans on Thursday and urged majority party lawmakers to reevaluate their priorities.
At a Capitol press conference, Republicans pointed to misplaced priorities in areas of health care, the care of at-risk children with Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) involvement, and with an energy agenda that has some Illinoisans paying almost double for their energy compared to one year ago.
“It was just over four years ago when authorities found the body of 5-year-old AJ Freund—a constituent of mine–wrapped in plastic in a shallow grave in rural Woodstock,” said Wilcox. “DCFS had many hotline calls about the family’s treatment of the children, there was a doctor who reported serious and suspicious bruising on AJ during an ER visit, and DCFS visited the home many times. Yet in the end, this boy was left defenseless in a house with monsters and he ultimately died from injuries to his skull and brain due to multiple blunt-force trauma inflicted by his parents.”
According to state statistics, deaths of children with DCFS involvement have increased in recent years, from an average of 100 child deaths from 2015-2018, to an average of 130 deaths from 2018-2022. In 2022 alone, there were 171 deaths of children who met the criteria for an investigation by DCFS.
“As Republicans, time and time again we have demanded a major overhaul of DCFS, and our calls have fallen on deaf ears. We have filed legislation and pledged to work with Democrats to do whatever it takes to keep children safe,” said Wilcox. “Not only are Democrats refusing to act, but Governor Pritzker also recently re-appointed DCFS Director Marc Smith to continue leading the agency. It is inexcusable that Democrats refuse to prioritize the care of children within DCFS.”
In a discussion of healthcare priorities, State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Cherry Valley) pointed to repeated underfunding of the state’s most vulnerable citizens, including the developmentally disabled by over a half-billion dollars over the last three years. Meanwhile, as they craft the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, Democrats project they will spend $1.1 billion in the next fiscal year alone on health care for non-citizens.
Similarly, with regard to energy costs, State Senator Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) explained how the promotion of an extreme “green” agenda has been prioritized over skyrocketing energy costs for Ameren energy customers, some who have seen their bills increase by 90%. Even though the Legislature approved an aid program to help Ameren customers last year, Democrats failed to fund the program in the current budget, leaving Ameren customers without any assistance.
“The facts speak for themselves, and the misplaced priorities of the majority party are not where Senate Republicans believe they should be and they are not where the residents of Illinois believe they should be,” added Wilcox. “Our constituents elect us to represent them in Springfield, and their care and wellbeing should be in the forefront of our minds during policy discussions. Too many legislators seem to have forgotten that.”