By: Bernard Schoenburg
Some people attending a United Auto Workers conference in Springfield groaned Monday when Democratic congressional candidate Ann Callis brought up the subject of the "Ryan budget."
"It is a bad Republican philosophy for our country," Callis, of Edwardsville, said to the group at the Hilton Springfield about the budget engineered by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
Later Wednesday, Ryan joined the incumbent that Callis hopes to unseat -- U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville -- from Washington on a telephone conference call with constituents from across the 13th Congressional District.
"This is the only budget that has been presented that balances," Davis said. "And the hardworking taxpayers of central and southwestern Illinois truly want us to balance the budget."
"We think it is a moral imperative to balance our budget," Ryan said, "so that we don't continue to damage today's economy and wreck it for the next generation."
Callis has said the Ryan plan would raise Medicare costs for seniors "while cutting taxes for the wealthiest among us."
Ryan said the plan would "shore ... up" Medicare by avoiding diversion of hundreds of billions of dollars to create "Obamacare." A summary of the GOP budget at www.budget.house.gov says the plan would "Repeal Obamacare to clear the way for patient-centered reform," and "Secure seniors' retirement by strengthening Medicare and other vital programs."
A listener on the call from Decatur asked Ryan if the plan is "just a bunch of talk," or if it could get done.
Ryan said Senate Democrats -- who control the upper chamber -- already have indicated they won't pass the budget expected to be voted on by the GOP-led House this week. Thus, it can't go to the president or become law.
But Ryan said it's still important to set priorities via the plan the House GOP calls "The Path to Prosperity."
"Rodney and I are members of the House of Representatives," Ryan said. "We take our oath and our responsibility seriously, so that's why we are budgeting, we're making tough choices and we're showing you exactly how we're going to fix this country's fiscal problems."
Davis said the plan is "not perfect" but is "a step in the right direction."
Callis, meanwhile, told the UAW group that she's for raising the minimum wage.
"We all know if we raise the minimum wage even incrementally, it could bring millions of Americans out of poverty," she said. "And six out of 10 minimum wage earners in Illinois are women."
She also said she backs an extension of long-term unemployment insurance benefits, as recently passed by the Senate.
"We don't even know if the House is going to take that up," Callis said. "People are really suffering, and that's something I would support and fight for."
Callis added in an interview that people she encounters who need the extension of benefits are "constantly trying to find work."
Callis also said she backs the "Paycheck Fairness Act," which Democrats said would help close a wage gap between women and men in part by prohibiting retaliation from employers for asking about or disclosing wages in certain situations. The legislation fell short of passage in a vote later Wednesday in the Senate.
Callis told the UAW that women make "77 cents on the dollar" compared with men" and "it's about time" to "help women catch up." She also praised the union.
"We all know that strong labor means a strong economy, so it's my honor to be in your presence," she said.
Callis also said in the interview she is for comprehensive immigration reform, as passed by the Senate.