Congressman elect, Rodney Davis, not optimistic about a
Editor’s note: This interview is the first in an ongoing series of articles about newly elected officials.
By Daniel Winningham
Newly elected Congressman Rodney Davis, a Republican from Taylorville, visited Carlinville shortly before Thanksgiving to discuss ongoing issues in Washington as well as concerns facing citizens in Central Illinois.
Davis, originally from Des Moines, Iowa, narrowly defeated Democratic candidate David Gill and independent John Hartman. Davis, a former projects director for Congressmen John Shimkus, has lived in Taylorville since he was 7.
Davis, who will represent the state’s 13th congressional district, will be one of 90 new members of both the U.S. Congress and U.S. Senate. He is one of five new congress members in Illinois.
Davis traveled to Washington for the first week of orientation Nov. 12-16 for “initial seminars on how to set up an office and administer a budget” and a tour of the complexes, plus the opportunity to go onto the House floor for the first time.
“It was a very humbling experience to be able to walk out onto that House floor knowing that my vote is going to be cast on behalf of over 800,000 people in Central and Southwestern Illinois,” Davis said.
Job creators in the 13th Congressional District, which includes rural portions, such as Macoupin and Montgomery counties, plus more metropolitan areas of Champaign, Decatur and Springfield, need more certainty, Davis said.
“This district’s hurting, when you look at our unemployment rate, compared to the rest of the state and nation,” Davis said. “I do believe there are jobs and opportunities out there. We may not have as many opportunities at large manufacturing facilities that we had 20 or 30 years ago. I think there are opportunities in small manufacturing companies that would be available to those who are willing to get retrained.”
Davis also said those without work should be able to train for a different career.
“We’ve got to give those who are unemployed, those who are looking for a new job, the ability to get retrained,” Davis said.
Davis views the so-called “fiscal cliff” as the main issue to be tackled by Congress.
“The first main issue that everybody should be focused on is the fiscal cliff,” Davis said. “The fact that Republicans and Democrats for the last two years, and even before that, have basically kicked the can down the road, it’s a dereliction of duties by both parties.
“You look at some of the major issues that need to be addressed, fiscal cliff, comprehensive farm bill, comprehensive immigration reform. All those issues were just punted because of politics and the election.
Now’s the time. The American people spoke. They like a divided government, but they want us to come to a compromise. They want us to be able to address some of these major issues.”
The way Davis views things, the fiscal cliff discussion needs to remain at the forefront.
“That has to be our first priority,” Davis said. “Every single American will experience the largest income tax increase in American tax history if Republicans and Democrats continue to not get along and come up with a common ground solution. Once January hits, if nothing’s done, tax tables will revert back to 2001 levels, and every single family will have their check in January go down because more will be withheld for those higher tax rates. It’s estimated that a middle class family in Macoupin County and the rest of this district will pay an average of $3,500 to $4,000 more in taxes, which means their first check in January, if nothing’s done, will be $300-or-some-odd less than what they’re making now. I don’t know of many middle class families here in Carlinville that can withstand that hit to their monthly income this January, all because of politics, all because Republicans and Democrats don’t want to make the tough decisions that are needed.”
For Davis, raising taxes at this time isn’t a good proposal, which is one area he agrees with the president.
“The most viable option is not to raise taxes,” Davis said. “We need to keep our current tax rates. Let’s just solidify the current tax rates and make them permanent, then let’s go in and look at loopholes. Let’s make sure there are no loopholes that exist that encourage people to ship jobs overseas. If there are, let’s get rid of them. Let’s start looking at those individual loopholes so that middle-class Americans aren’t the ones on the hook for increased taxes. Right now, I agree with President Obama when he said that we shouldn’t raise taxes during economic struggles. We’re in an economic struggle in this district. Unemployment is still much higher in the 13th congressional district than it is nationwide, and we need to make sure that middle classes families don’t have their taxes raised just because Republicans and Democrats let them go off the fiscal cliff, and let the tax rates go back to what they were in 2001 levels.
Davis doesn’t realistically think any solution will get done prior to the new Congress getting sworn in the first week of January.
“I’m not optimistic they’re going to do that. I think they’re going to put together some temporary fixes, which are failures,” Davis said. “To me, the failure to address the fiscal cliff, and these other major issues with long-term solutions, is a failure of both parties, and I think they’re going to continue to fail on that.
“Come Jan. 3, I’m going to be able to sit around the table and offer my suggestions. Suggestions that are going to be based upon the discussions I’ve had with job creators in this district. They want certainty. They want to know what their tax bill is going to look like at the end of next year, so they can invest in inventory, equipment and, most importantly, they can invest in people, because that’s how we create jobs. When that happens, you’re going to see the economy grow. The economy’s going to grow on the backs of small businesses creating jobs. When we see that happen, we can then control spending, cut wasteful spending and begin to attack our $16 trillion national debt. If we fail to do those things, then we’re continuing to kick the can down the road, and the voters need to hold all elected officials accountable for not making progress … I intend to go out and make progress.”
The debt incurred by the federal government remains a concern for Davis.
“Every single American, man, woman and child, has got a $50,000 share of the debt, just to pay it back right now,” Davis said. “And it keeps going up, every time we don’t address fiscal issues in this country, every time we spend more money than we take in. The fiscal issues, and the tax issues, have been what I campaigned on. But I also campaigned on coming up with bipartisan solutions.”
Davis said the election results for Nov. 6 say the nation wants divided government without the gridlock.
“They like a divided government, but the status quo is unacceptable. They don’t want the polarization of the political system which leads to inaction,” he said.
Davis referenced Republicans and President Bill Clinton working together in 1996 to create a surplus environment.
“That was not on anybody’s radar screen before they worked it out,” Davis said. “That can happen again.”
Davis returned to Washington Nov. 26-30 for a second week of orientation to go over more of the legislative process and says he’s “looking forward to learning the nuts and bolts about the process, and seeing how we can make an effective difference legislatively.”
The swearing in ceremony for the 113th Congress is set for Thursday, Jan. 3.