below, release from Kirk.....
Kirk Unveils Peoria Agenda
Kirk: "We need a plan to create jobs, expand opportunities and keep Peoria families safe."
Peoria, Ill.- Congressman Mark Kirk joined Congressman Aaron Schock, Mayor Jim Ardis and community leaders to unveil his Peoria Agenda to highlight the priorities of Peoria-area citizens.
"Our next Senator should support specific Peoria efforts to keep families safe, support major employers like Caterpillar, local health care providers and small business owners, and invest in our rail and river systems," Kirk said. "The best thing we can do for Peoria right now is support pro-growth, job creation policies to turn our economy around and put people back to work."
The Peoria Agenda is a nine-point plan to create jobs, expand opportunities and keep Peoria families safe. Congressman Kirk worked with Peoria community leaders to develop the agenda. Below is Congressman Kirk's Peoria Agenda.
The Peoria Agenda
1) Cracking Down on Peoria Crime
According to local law enforcement officials, seventy-eight people have been shot in the Peoria area since the beginning of the year while the 2009 National Gang Threat Assessment estimates that there are from 500 - 2,499 gang members operating in Peoria County. This same study shows Illinois has more gang members per capita than any other state in the country.
We need to ask ourselves why Illinois is leading the nation in gang activity, and what needs to be done to combat this trend. While law enforcement cannot be the only answer, we know that few things are more effective than when local, state and federal agencies share information and resources. We need to treat gangs as a national security threat - one that is not localized in any one community. The Anti-Gang Task Force Act of 2009 provides resources and coordination at the national level to help our local police and sheriff departments prevent gang violence.
The Peoria area has benefited from local task forces in the past. In the 1990s, Operation Crackshot, an effort that includes the Peoria Police Department, Peoria County Sheriff, U.S. Attorney's office, FBI and U.S. Marshal Service, put dozens of Gangster Disciples in prison and significantly disrupted the local drug trade for years.
The interstate and international nature of gangs poses new challenges to law enforcement. Drugs like heroin and cocaine flow north from Mexico, providing the funds for gangs to acquire military-grade weaponry. Last year, members of the Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group confiscated a rocket launcher from an Outlaws motorcycle gang member in Antioch. Assault weapons are routinely used by Orchestra Albany gang members in northern Illinois.
The Anti-Gang Task Force Act establishes and provides $20 million in funds for a national gang task force with corresponding regional task forces to target gangs. The task force would include:
(1) the Federal Bureau of Investigation;
(2) the Drug Enforcement Administration;
(3) the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives;
(4) the United States Marshals Service;
(5) the Directorate of Border and Transportation Security of the Department of Homeland Security;
(6) the Department of Housing and Urban Development;
(7) State and local law enforcement; and
(8) Federal, State, and local prosecutors.
2) Helping Attract Economic Growth to Peoria
Vacant commercial buildings reduce the tax base of communities and contribute to local economic blight. To help bring business and jobs to Peoria, we need legislation to exempt vacant property from federal taxes for 10 years if new commercial activity comes to that site. "Vacant property" is a defined piece of land within a city or municipality where local officials certify "little to no commercial activity" has taken place for two years.
Such a move would help attract economic growth in Peoria, and offer the community additional tools as the city targets neighborhoods like the Warehouse District for redevelopment. By focusing on federal tax revenue only, the legislation preserves the tax base of local school districts, including District 150.
3) Expanding Opportunities for Caterpillar
As the largest employer in Peoria, Caterpillar is vital to this community. Mark Kirk will be a Senator who fights for Illinois exporters to help them reach new markets, create jobs and raise incomes here at home.
As Senator, Mark Kirk will work with the Foreign Commercial Service, the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Development Agency - key agencies that help Illinois employers establish export footholds in growing markets. Investing in Peoria's airport is directly tied to the success of Caterpillar's exports.
Allowing exporters to reach new markets is critical for economic growth to continue. That is why Mark Kirk supports passage of the Korea, Panama and Colombia Free Trade Agreements.
4) Standing Up for Peoria Small Business
With unemployment over 10 percent, the number one priority in the Peoria area is promoting pro-growth policies to create jobs and put the people of Peoria back to work. Small businesses account for 98.4 percent of statewide employers and are the engine of our economy.
Congressman Kirk has announced a Small Business Bill of Rights to protect small businesses from higher taxes, rising health care and energy costs and increasing government red tape. The plan, which is endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business, would provide small business employers with capital gains, AMT and death tax relief, cut government red tape, lower health care costs and protect a worker's right to a secret ballot in a union election.
The Small Business Bill of Rights will:
Protect secret ballots in union elections
Lower health costs with lawsuit reforms and interstate competition
Lower energy costs with credits for efficient equipment and hybrids
Permit children to continue business with low/no death tax
Exempt small businesses from capital gains tax for 10 years
Make immigration laws easy to comply with
Create a Patent Office fast lane for small business innovation
SBA to limit federal paperwork for small businesses to 200 hours annually
Prevent AMT from taxing the middle class
Reduce deficit to encourage jobs and improve credit
5) Standing Up for Peoria's Health Care Providers
Health care providers make up Peoria's second largest employer-base. OSF St. Francis Medical Center, Methodist Medical Center and Proctor Hospital are critical to Peoria's economy and public health. As Senator, Mark Kirk will fight to protect local hospitals from cuts to Medicare and promote policies that allow health care providers to expand access and lower costs. Educating future health care providers should remain a priority. Mark Kirk supports the work of University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria and the Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing.
6)Expanding the Peoria International Airport
WayneDowning International Airport is critical to Peoria's economy. As a hub for international commerce, the airport boasts one of Illinois' top control towers outside of Chicago O'Hare. Home to the 182nd Airlift Wing, the airport holds a critical piece of Peoria and Central Illinois' economic future. As Senator, Mark Kirk will back efforts to continue airport modernization and expansion.
7) Educating the Workforce
We must continue our efforts to keep Peoria's workforce competitive in our changing economy. In order to help existing employers looking to diversify their workforce as well as attract new employers, we must increase the number of Peoria-area citizens with technical training and higher education degrees. Mark Kirk supports efforts like Peoria Promise to educate the workforce and keep Peoria competitive.
8) Investing in our Rail and River Systems
Transportation and infrastructure investment are vital to economic growth. As Senator, Mark Kirk will support Peoria's push to expand rail service to Normal and connect the Peoria market to the St. Louis-Chicago line. Much of our state's economy also depends on the system of locks and dams along Illinois' rivers to bring products to market. However, this system was built long ago for smaller and older ships. As Senator, Mark Kirk will work to upgrade and expand our river infrastructure to bring our lock-and-dam system into the 21st century.
9) Supporting the 182nd Airlift Wing
The 182nd Airlift Wing of the Air National Guard provides air mobility support to deliver equipment and personnel all around the world at a moments notice from facilities in Peoria. The 182nd employs more than 1,000 people and deployed hundreds in support of the War on Terror. As a Senator, Mark Kirk will support efforts to modernize the 182nd and gain new missions for the unit.