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Two months into her term in the Illinois House of Representatives, Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) said she thinks lawmakers are ready to cross the aisle to solve the state’s budget woes.

Bryant spoke to about 50 students and community members Monday afternoon at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute as part of the Pizza and Politics speaker series.

Before her election in November, Bryant thought Springfield was “full of a bunch of liars,” she said. But since January she’s seen a genuine effort to work together – in part, she said, thanks to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

“When you have one-party rule, regardless of which party it is, there is no incentive to work across the aisle,” she said. “What we have right now is a governor who has a very assertive personality. We have a Speaker of the House (Democrat Mike Madigan) who, I believe, does not want his 40-year legacy to be what we have. … So there is an incentive that maybe we haven’t seen for many years to work together.”

With tough budget decisions on the horizon and a financial outlook that proved worse than she ever imagined, Bryant said that spirit of collaboration is all the more necessary.

“It’s ugly,” she said. “There’s going to have to be some deep cuts.

“I don’t think the sky is falling, but we do need to keep an eye on it,” she added.

SIU’s College of Business, College of Law, the University Honors Program and the Women’s Resource Center co-sponsored the hour-long event, which was held as part of Women’s History Month.

Asked how women are fairing in politics these days, Bryant said even though Democrats count more women in their ranks, her Republican male counterparts have treated her with “nothing but respect.”

“In fact some people who have been there for a long time and recognize that I might know something about corrections or law enforcement that they don’t know have been willing to come and listen to what I had to say,” she said.

Bryant served as a public administrator for the Illinois Department of Corrections for 20 years.

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