Even though she is a Congressional rookie, U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinski has not been shy about racking up the miles.
In her first 100 days in office, the Illinois Democrat has visited every county in her 13th District, which includes Madison and St. Clair counties.
“Constituent work is very important,” Budzinski said during a stop Monday at the Post-Dispatch office, noting that she has opened four district offices, including one in Belleville.
Along with being visible in her district, the Springfield, Illinois legislator said she also is making it a point to foster a working relationship with the other two members of the Illinois delegation who represent this area — Mike Bost and Mary Miller, both conservative Republicans and staunch supporters of Donald Trump.
“I’m not saying we’re going to agree on everything,” said Budzinski, who described herself as a “center-left pragmatist.”
“But I think we can accommodate something in that space” where needs of the district outweigh partisan politics, she said.
Budzinski noted that she sought membership on the House Agriculture Committee, which is chaired by Bost, whose far Southern Illinois district includes parts of St. Clair and Monroe counties. “I think we’ve developed a good relationship,” she said.
She also noted that she and Miller, who share portions of six Illinois counties, have worked together on an alternative-fuels bill that would benefit Illinois corn and soybean farmers.
Two other issues, both inherited and both more complicated, are moving at a slower pace, she said.
Budzinski said she still is talking with the parties involved in the possible closing of the U.S. Steel plant in Granite City.
Last year, the company announced plans to sell a large portion of the mill, which has been in Granite City since 1896, to Chicago-based SunCoke Energy.
The sale of the mill, which now has about 1,500 employees, would likely reduce the workforce by as many as 1,000 people.
“I’ve been talking with U.S. Steel … trying to get them to make the decision to invest” in Granite City, she said, adding that if the reduction does take place, she wants to make sure the company is accountable for the environmental impact and clean-up.
“The community should not be responsible for that,” she said.
The other problem that defies quick solutions is the flooding/sewage problem in Cahokia Heights and Centreville — one she described as “government that has failed a community.”
Budzinski said U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, is “laser-focused” on sorting out the issue, which needs cooperation between local, state and federal officials.
Bottom line, she said, “It’s unacceptable to have raw sewage coming up in your front yard.”
Finally, Budzinski was asked about the possibility of a presidential run by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, whom Budzinski worked for as a senior advisor.
She said her former boss would make a “formidable presidential candidate,” but then said all indications now point to President Joe Biden seeking reelection.
Said Budzinski, “And I would support him, of course.”
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April 10, 2023 at 01:06PM