Born Feb. 2, 1945, State Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Hicnkley, grew up on a farm near Maple Park, Ill.
He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication at the University of Illinois, where he met his wife, Mary. They married in 1968. She is the associate dean of the NIU College of Health and Human Sciences.
As a community leader, Pritchard has always been an energetic and busy contributor to the communities of DeKalb County. Among his many leadership roles, he volunteered for the Ben Gordon Mental Health Board, the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce Board and the county, state and national 4-H Foundation.
Pritchard has diligently worked for the betterment of the district on a wide gamut of issues from early childhood and education, health care, conservation and the environment, job creation, and protecting the manufacturing industry. He listens, studies the issues and works for the best interests of his district and the citizens of Illinois.
NIU Today recently had the opportunity to ask Pritchard some questions relating to his legislative goals and education.
Q: What are the priorities for your district during this legislative session?
A: 1) Balance the budget and pay bills on time. Just like families and businesses, the state must set priorities about spending, pay as we go, not build debt for our children. 2) Reform pensions in a fair way for workers and taxpayers. The current pension system needs to be competitive and reflective of life expectancies and costs. The employer must pay its share annually and pay the unfunded liability. Pension payments should not crowd out other important priorities of the state. 3) Implement education reforms and fulfill education funding responsibilities. Education is one of the most important responsibilities of the state and it has been underfunding our P-20 education system. We must also assure that the investment in education prepares students for college, careers and life. 4) Provide a safety net for the disadvantaged and expect those who are able to become independent of state programs. 5) Creating a climate where individuals and businesses can succeed in accordance with their efforts, creativity and abilities. In such an environment our economy will grow, revenue for government services will come through activity not over burdening taxation, good jobs will be available and communities will thrive.
Q: How do you hope to accomplish or help accomplish these priorities?
A: I have proposed and supported efforts to balance our budget, set reasonable spending priorities and fund programs that produce desired results. Through the Jobs Now Capital program, I have helped to build and sustain our infrastructure which attracts business and helps them be competitive. I have worked for reform legislation in the areas of workman compensation, Medicaid, education and regulation reforms that make our state more competitive, a better place to live and conduct business. Pension reform will be a critical issue this spring as the legislature tries to preserve the pension system without consuming an ever growing share of state revenue that forces sharp reductions in other state services. I will continue to work for fair and constitutional pension reforms that evolve through discussions with all the affected parties and contain shared responsibilities for putting the pension system back on sound financial footings. Pensions are an important employee benefit and to assure the system doesn’t go bankrupt and continue to crowd out the state’s ability to provide core service, we must restructure the system and assure the employer makes full and timely contributions.
Q: Rising cost of higher education and dropping availability of MAP grants have parents and students feeling uneasy. How do you and the Illinois General Assembly plan to put citizens at ease?
A: The ever-rising demand for an educated workforce combined with rising costs of that education requires families and individuals to do more advance planning and saving for college expense. I have: supported the College Core to help junior high students plan their career and education goals; promoted the expansion of dual credit and dual degree programs between high schools and community colleges where students get degrees faster and at lower cost; supported the ISACorp which helps high school students apply for scholarships, and; served as a member of Complete College Illinois team that encourages colleges and universities to support student learning, reduce time to degree and restructure curricula so students can navigate the system quicker and less expensively. Finally, by supporting a balance budget and paying bills on time, I believe that colleges and universities will get their appropriation faster and more reliably which will help to hold down costs. Funding for more MAP grants is a tradeoff for funding of public higher education operating costs. With more MAP grants, the state is funding private institutions at the expense of public institutions. I believe the state is served by having public institutions with open enrollment. I support more funding for public institutions which should help slow tuition inflation. The other alternative is to let the public institutions become private and just fund student education grants like MAP.
Q: Higher education funding is constantly under fire. How will you address the pension and fiscal deficits without sacrificing educational funding?
A: First we must discuss our issues in a calm, thoughtful, collective manner. The blame game is not productive. All areas of the budget will be impacted as we rebuild our financial structure. My goal is to focus our resources on priority areas, pursue efficiencies/fraud and waste, make certain we are following the best practices and stay focused on student outcomes. Educators and administrators must fulfill their part to assist students, keep tuition and fees a fair value, and train students to be creative and productive. Our compensation package must be competitive and fair. When we stabilize our finances and reduce debt, the state will be better able to invest in education, research and infrastructure that promote economic growth once again.
Q: What do you love the most about the district you represent?
R: Its people, businesses, values, events/organizations and communities.
by Isaac Palma