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Education a key issue for candidates in Illinois' 59th Senate race

Carbondale Southern Illinoisan

Wednesday, September 26, 2018  |  Article  |  by ISAAC SMITH The Southern

Fowler, Dale--State Senate, 59

CARBONDALE — This November, incumbent Republican Dale Fowler and his Democratic opponent Steve Webb are both vying to be the senator representing Illinois' 59th District.

Finishing his freshman term, Fowler said he feels like he has more good work to do — forging bonds across the aisle and championing local industry. He cited his work recently bringing more jobs to Pepsi MidAmerica in Marion and the progress he’s made on bringing a port to Cairo in languishing Alexander County.

His opponent, Webb, the Goreville school superintendent, said while Fowler has been busy, his output hasn’t been good. He pointed to votes Fowler made that were against an updated funding formula for schools, which Webb said would have pumped more cash into Southern Illinois schools.

Fowler said he had a reason for voting against the proposals.

“I did that because it took $75 million from our public schools and put it (for charter schools),” he said, adding that this created a pipeline to Chicago.

Webb said he initially had no intention to run for office but was compelled to do so.

“When I saw that my opponent was voting against education funding ... I was asked to run,” he said.

He said he is familiar with Springfield politics — he has testified previously all over the state about the “devastation” budget cuts have caused schools.

One thing the two men agree on is property taxes — both think tax increases have gone too far.

“We are running people out of their family farms, we are running people out of the house that they grew up in and that has to change,” Webb said.

Webb said he would advocate for cutting the property tax rate in conjunction with potentially supporting a progressive income tax that would put a higher tax rate on the wealthiest of state residents.

On the flip side, Fowler appeared recently at a press event that denounced such a progressive tax, flanked by his party's nominees in other state races.

Fowler said he’s done his best to keep his campaign clean, the same way he did in 2016. He said he wants to talk about the future and to remind constituents of his record.

“I don’t get involved in conflict, but I will defend myself when I have to,” he said of Webb’s attacks on his record on education issues.

Fowler pointed out that he co-sponsored a bill that would raise the minimum teacher salary in the state — something Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed.

“I don’t look at education as an expense to the state of Illinois,” Fowler said.

The 59th District includes all of Alexander, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski, Saline and Williamson counties, and parts of Union and Jackson counties. 

For information about your legislative and representative districts, and to check your voter registration, visit elections.il.gov/InfoForVoters.aspx.