Recently, U.S. Representative Jerry Costello (D-Belleville) penned an editorial discussing Illinois' high unemployment rate and the fact that Illinois is behind the rest of the country with respect to job growth.

One other interesting fact is that St. Clair County's unemployment rate is higher than the rest of the state. While his observations are correct, I ask what he has done to help create a business-friendly environment in Illinois.

Costello voted in favor of President Clinton's tax increases and against President Bush's tax cuts. Lower taxes enable business owners to expand, creating new jobs. Tax cuts also give people more of their money back so they can spend it on consumer goods, which lead to a growing economy.

Costello also voted against tort reform legislation, containing caps on non-economic damages, every time it came to the floor.

There have already been over 170 doctors in the Metro East who have retired or relocated because of skyrocketing malpractice premiums. Those doctors employ staff and provide support to local business owners.

The litigation environment of a state also affects where companies decide to conduct business.

Madison and St. Clair Counties are both in Costello's district. Madison County was ranked in the top five worst local jurisdictions in the nation and St. Clair County was ranked in the top twelve.

The medical crisis could also have a negative impact on Scott Air Force Base because quality of life is an important factor for the government in determining whether to keep bases open. What will be the impact to the unemployment rate and the economy, if Scott Air Force Base closes considering the base is the largest employer in the Metro East?

Southern Illinois' coal mining industry is also nearly extinct and, yet, Costello has done nothing to modify the Clean Air Act.

Now, many of the union members who spent much of their lives working for the mines are faced with a greater problem. Many have lost their retirement and health care benefits because their former employer was permitted to discharge those debts when filing bankruptcy.

Costello has offered no solutions. The bankruptcy code needs to be reformed to prevent companies from discharging these benefits as a debt. There also needs to be reform that would enable workers to pay their health and retirement benefits into a trust account, creating a trustee relationship. If the money is misused, the trustee could then be held personally liable.

Costello is competent in making observations, but is incompetent when it comes to solving the problem.

Congressman Costello has been in office since 1988. Since then we have lost manufacturing jobs, our coal mining industry, and now we are losing our doctors.

Yet, he continues to vote against tort reform, lower taxes, and deregulation, all of which, are important in creating a business friendly environment.

Southern Illinois deserves better representation than just doling out pork.

The 12th district needs a representative who will create a business-friendly environment. After all, pork projects are made possible by the people who are "bringing home the bacon" and paying their taxes.

Congressman Costello should not be so surprised at the unemployment rate of Illinois, especially in Southern Illinois. His voting record and passiveness helped create it.

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