ALTON TELEGRAPH: Budzinski believes in reaching across the aisle to make change

Apr 15, 2023
Nikki in the News

The Telegraph

April 15, 2023 by Dylan Suttles

ALTON — Nearly 100 days ago, U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinski, D-Springfield, was sworn in for the redrawn 13th Congressional District of Illinois.

But amid the political battles in Washington, Budzinski said the thing that has surprised her the most during her first three months in office has been her ability to reach across the aisle.

“I’ve been able to go to Washington — which I think people often times look at and think it’s very dysfunctional — and find some people that actually do want to get things done,” Budzinski said.

Born in Peoria, Budzinski’s grandparents were both union members. Her grandfather was a painter employed by the Peoria School District. Her grandmother was a teacher in the same district.

She graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and interned for U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt, U.S. Sen. Paul Simon and Planned Parenthood. After college, she worked for the United Food and Commercial Workers as its national political director in Washington, D.C.

Budzinski said that, since taking office, she has been working with House members from both parties on issues that affect all of the communities in the 13th Congressional District.

Her district stretches from East St. Louis and Belleville to Champaign, sprawling through all of Macoupin County and sections of Madison, St. Clair, Champaign, Macon, Piatt and Sangamon counties. She said she has met with U.S. Reps. Mary Miller, R-Oakland, and Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, from the neighboring districts and specifically talked about how they can work together on crop insurance and flooding.

“That’s not a Democratic or Republican issue,” she said. “That’s just an issue that we can work together on and support our communities and our constituents.”

Working in Congress means dividing her time between Washington and her home in Springfield.

“There is a lot of pressure in Washington, but it’s also a people business,” she said. “It’s meeting people; it’s relationship building and being able to do those things both in Washington and back home.”

She was appointed to the House Committees on Agriculture and Veterans’ Affairs.

“I’ve really tried to locally find people that are going to help inform some of the decisions and the work that I’m going to be doing,” she said.

She said she’s reached across the political aisle in search of bipartisan opportunities. She pointed to three pieces of bipartisan legislation she has worked on:

  • The Leap Act, to help fill the job skills gap by providing tax credits to small businesses that hire apprenticeship employees;
  • The Rural America Health Corps Act, to help communities recruit essential health care providers by relieving student loan debt for doctors, nurses, dentists and behavioral health providers; and
  • The Next Generation Fuels Act, to increase the use of ethanol in gasoline, helping both farmers and consumers.

“I think we need to start listening to each other and work together to find were we have common ground,” she said. “I think it’s up to us as individuals to help contribute to more civility in Washington.”

She also said she wants more attention for “food deserts,” or locations where acccess to nutritional food needs to be improved. She noted the Walmart in Cahokia Heights is set to close by April 21, and even with other Walmarts nearby, the closure will presents an issue for some, she said.

“If you don’t live in a community were you have access to public transportation, that Walmart might as well be on the other side of the world,” she said. “We need to find ways to produce more locally sourced food and help people get access to that food.”

Budzinski said, if possible, she would tell her younger self to take risks and not be afraid.

“I’ve taken a lot of risks throughout my life and my career and sometimes you fail,” she said. “But you learn a lot from the failures and the losses.

“I think exposing yourself and being willing to put yourself out their is always worth the risk,” she said.

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