By RICK HAYES
MT. VERNON — —
A high-ranking state official will visit the King City next week to update the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce on the state's fiscal condition.
Comptroller Judy Baar-Topinka will be the featured speaker at a noon luncheon Tuesday in the performance hall at Cedarhurst Center for the Arts. Tickets are $25 each. Chamber officials urge those interested to RSVP the Chamber office by noon Monday so they have an idea on how many meals to prepare for the luncheon.
"She's got a downstate representative who lives in Metropolis that is a friend of mine. She called and said the comptroller is going around the state to discuss the fiscal condition of the state — where we're at and where we're going," said Chamber Executive Director Brandon Bullard. "She also will be providing tips and information on how to go about doing what you need to do if you're owed money by the state."
Bullard said. Topinka has been a longtime friend of Mayor Mary Jane Chesley, and her dynamic speaking ability should be a drawing card for Chamber members and the public.
"She is looking forward to coming to Mt. Vernon and tell people what's going on," Bullard said, adding that as an advocate of families and child and women abuse, Topinka has shown an interest in visiting the Lifeboat Alliance Family Shelter — the facility recently opened to help homeless families.
"It will give those folks an opportunity to show off their product and and services they provide," Bullard said.
According to one news outlet, Topinka has also proposed a law that would ban schools from being used as polling places. She has the backing of several state legislators and police, the report said. Topinka reportedly is worried about violence when a school is opened to the public during an election.
"On Election Day, nothing's locked up," she said in the report. "It's just open and you know, we have good solid citizens who are doing their duty and voting. But that doesn't mean that somebody with less than honorable intentions could now just calmly walk through the door and cause some real trouble."
According to information from the Chamber, Topinka will also address her goals for this legislative session on the heels of Gov. Pat Quinn's state budget address on Wednesday.
The state is expected to use $7 billion of the state's general revenue this coming year for state pensions. The state's employer contribution to pensions of $6.8 billion in the coming year will represent nearly one-fifth of the $35.6 billion general revenue — money spent for state operations such as education and public safety — expected to come in during the budget year that begins July 1.
During his speech, Quinn proposed closing tax loopholes to produce money to pay down the state's backlog of $9 billion it owes to vendors. He hinted he would be open to a heavily regulated expansion of legalized gambling as long as the new revenue generated went to education.
Bullard said another legislative session may be hosted by the Chamber this spring.
“We've had leadership luncheons before. This kind of fits in with our continuing education mission for the Chamber,” Bullard said.