WOODSTOCK – A new government in Washington – and a new president who wants to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure nationwide – is prompting the McHenry County Board to again hire a federal lobbyist.
County Board members are scheduled to vote Tuesday evening whether to hire Washington, D.C.-based The National Group at a cost of $45,000 for one year. But some members expressed concerns during the pre-vote discussion at Thursday morning’s Committee of the Whole.
The County Board for years during the Barack Obama presidency hired the services of another lobbying group. However, the decision by the U.S. House in 2011 to ban earmarks – the county’s main reason for hiring a lobbyist is to steer federal dollars locally – made hiring a lobbyist less and less lucrative. The County Board let that lobbyist contract lapse about 2½ years ago.
Some, such as board member Craig Wilcox, R-McHenry, echoed past opposition on ethical grounds.
“Philosophically, I am not a proponent of the County Board, or any government entity who collects and spends taxpayer dollars, hiring outside firms for the lobbying of another entity – the federal government, who collects and spends taxpayer dollars – to encourage them to spend dollars,” Wilcox said.
But with Donald Trump in the White House – who as some board members noted Thursday has no ties to Illinois, unlike the previous president – a number of board members see the value in having one, especially since voters in November also left the House and Senate in Republican control.
Law and Government Committee Chairwoman Michele Aavang, R-Woodstock, said that county taxpayers deserve to get more of a return on their federal taxes. Board Chairman Jack Franks, D-Marengo, reiterated the complaint that past chairmen have – that the county is a “donor” that sends off far more tax money than it gets.
“I think [residents] would like to see some of that federal tax money come back to the county,” Aavang said.
Franks said that both of the county’s House representatives – Republicans Peter Roskam and Randy Hultgren – encouraged the county to hire a lobbyist when Franks met them in February.
“I know that if we don’t have a seat at the table, we’re not going to get anything,” Franks said.
The County Board voting meeting starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the county Administration Building, 667 Ware Road, Woodstock.