“The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money.” Margaret Thatcher
State 6: Illinois - July 3, 2017
We woke up in Springfield, IL with a jam packed agenda. We folded up the bed, brushed our teeth, grabbed a couple of Cliff bars, and we were off to tour the State Capitol. The capitol building was very impressive from the outside, and was built in a timeless art deco style. After passing through security, we made our way to the information desk to inquire about the timing of the next tour. The lady at the desk said the next tour would begin in 30 minutes. She said that the state house was in special session trying to pass a state budget, and invited us to view from the balcony! The regular session for most state governments runs from January to April each year. A special session occurs when they are unable to finish their work, such as passi a state budget. We were actually excited! Usually, all we get to see when we tour the capital are beautiful empty rooms. This was our first opportunity on our trip to see a state government hard at work!
Here is what we learned from our time observing the house of Representatives of Illinois in action. First and foremost, the state has not passed a budget in 3 years! Although all the government workers still get paid, the states vendors have not gotten paid in over 3 years for their work for the state. This has resulted in hospitals, clinics and other essential community agencies and businesses closing all across Illinois. Could you survive 3 years without getting a paycheck? From there things got even worse. While the house was in session, we heard two of the representatives speak. One paid tribute to his late father since it was his birthday, and the other spoke about a cancer awareness. To make matters even worse, only half of the representatives were in attendance, and the other half of them were either talking among themselves, or on their phones. It wasn’t hard to see why a budget had not been passed. No one was talking about the budget, and even if someone decided to, nobody was paying attention to the person speaking. Maybe legislators should not get paid until they do their job and pass a damn budget! We headed back down to the information desk to catch our tour. We shared with the tour guide what we saw, and she said “I know it’s always like that”. There were some impressive features to the state Capitol such as it has the highest rotunda of any government building in the US including Washington DC. We also saw the states Senate chamber where former President Barack Obama began his political career as a State Senator for Illinois.
To be honest, we were both too upset to enjoy the tour. We both work in healthcare, and to have patients care compromised by facilities going out of business due to a lack of a state budget was both pathetic and infuriating to witness! We used to live in Connecticut: a state with a long history of fiscal irresponsibility. The citizens of the state continuously paid the price in the form of ongoing tax increases. This is one of the primary reasons we are traveling across the country to find a new state to call home. Now, we get to witness firsthand that Illinois has not passed a state budget in 3 years, and clearly has no urgency to do so! This is exactly the reason why we tour each state’s capitols, to see how a state is run before considering moving there! Lori and I both agreed for the very first time on our trip, we are disqualifying a state from consideration prior seeing the entire state. Illinois will not be our new home state. We refuse to trade one tyrant for another!
After leaving the capitol, we then headed 60 miles north from Springfield to Peoria to tour the Caterpillar Visitors Center. We try to do a factory tour in each state to highlight made in the USA companies. Caterpillar traces its origins to the 1925 merger of the Holt Manufacturing Company and the C.L Best Tractor Company. Caterpillar is a leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives. In 2016, Caterpillar was ranked number 1 in its industry, #59 on the Fortune 500 list, and #194 on the Global Fortune 500 list. We are used to touring manufacturing plants, but do to the sheer size of the products CAT makes. It would not be feasible or safe to so. In 2012, Caterpillar opened their visitors station. The self-guided tour began with a movie providing an overview of their operations, which was shown inside of a theater built in the bed of a 10 story mining truck. After the movie was over, we took and elevator back to ground level, and I took a picture of Lori standing in front of that gigantic mining truck. It is one of my favorite pictures I have taking in this trip, since it puts into perspective the sheer size of the equipment CAT produces. The first floor of the center consists of dozens of restored antique Caterpillar equipment from the early days of the company. There were also at least a dozen simulators of CAT equipment such as bulldozers and back hoes. These are the exact simulators CAT uses to train operators of the equipment. I can attest from personal experience, operating these machines is a lot more difficult that it appears. From there the tour progressed to a timeline of the company’s existence, and an in-depth, but understandable explanation of all of the facets of the company. Attempting to explain the aforementioned here would be a book with in self. At first we weren't sure if we would enjoy the CAT visitors center, verses actually being inside of their manufacturing plant. However, they did a very good job of explaining all aspect of their operation, in a fun, interesting, and interactive manor that was enjoyable for all ages. CAT’s motto is “Todays work Tomorrows World” is in fact an accurate statement! CAT equipment have been used in some of the most prominent and pivotal construction achievements of our time such as, the construction of the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline, Hoover Dam and construction of the Panama Canal, just to highlight a few. No doubt the next time we drive through a construction zone and see Caterpillar equipment hard at work, we will definitely have a new appreciation for the role the company plays in helping to construct our world!
We then visited Costco to buy some yummy organic food, and cheap gas. Afterwards, we went to the Peoria, IL Library to catch up on some computer work, and then headed back to Springfield, IL Walmart to sleep for the night. Tomorrow Is July 4th, and we will spend the day back in Springfield, IL. We have jammed pact agenda, and a very patriotic day planned!