Update from the Capitol 2/16/2018
Friday, February 16, 2018 - Posted 9:58:38 AM by Rep. Tom Bennett
As always, you can contact me via webform at www.repbennett.com, or by phone at (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac) or (815) 432-0106 (Watseka).|
Governor Rauner delivers budget address
On Wednesday, Governor Rauner gave his budget address â€“ which outlined his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year. He proposed a balanced budget: we have an estimated $37.9 billion in revenue to work with, and he proposed to spend $37.6 billion. He also put forth a plan to roll back last year's income tax increase. He did not propose any state facility closures and his budget would continue to fully fund K-12 education. He did propose a number of challenging actions to manage costs and revenue for the General Assembly to wrestle with.
Now that we have heard the Governor's speech, the House and the Senate must get to work on digging into the details of the proposal and negotiating a final version that can pass both houses and become law. We need to base our efforts on a realistic revenue estimate and have an open and transparent budget process. I want to see both parties work together to produce a finished product that is balanced and is the product of true, bipartisan negotiations and compromise.
We need to get to work right away.
COGFA issues state budget and cash flow report for January 2018
Many of the legislature's decisions regarding the budget will be based on information from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA), which is the agency charged with coming up with revenue reports for state government. Its report for January showed that state tax revenues are closely tracking with the overall economic improvement being seen nationwide. The national unemployment rate ended last year at 4.1%, which is at a 17-year low. Illinois has not yet been able to fully enjoy the benefits of the improving national picture. Illinois' unemployment rate stood at 4.8% at the end of the year, significantly higher than the nation as a whole.
Revenues collected by the state from taxes which came in during this January continued to run well ahead of the numbers for last January, but a lot of the difference can be credited to higher state income tax rates rather than true economic growth within Illinois. Illinois personal income tax revenues in January 2018 were up by $980 million compared to January 2017. The numbers reflect the new income tax rate of 4.95%. Other important sources of revenue, such as the sales tax and the lottery, were flat or negative as a reflection of changes in economic patterns.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $9,110,492,950 in unpaid bills to state vendors. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is estimated to be more than $100 billion.
Survey of higher education graduates shows Illinois is 13th of 50 states
Illinois outranked almost all states in the middle part of the United States in the percentage of residents with college degrees. The highest-ranking states tended to be located on the East Coast. Two exceptions, Colorado and Illinois, were heartland states centered on big cities with world-class airports.
The rankings were generated by database presenter WalletHub, which looked at a number of factors across all 50 states that are used to gauge a well-educated population. Factors used by WalletHub include matters such as school quality and educational attainment.
Utility bill seminars coming up
This spring I will be hosting a series of seminars throughout the district in cooperation with the Citizens Utility Board. These events are intended to help local residents find out ways to save money on their energy bills and hear about rebates and energy efficiency programs. The first two of these events will be in Woodford and Ford counties, with more to follow.
On Friday March 2, we will be at the library at 202 S. Main Street in Eureka from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The following Friday, March 9, we will be at the Moyer Library at 618 S. Sangamon Avenue in Gibson City from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. More of these events will be scheduled later in March. I encourage anyone with questions about their utility bills to stop by. You can find out more information by contacting either of my offices in Watseka or Pontiac.
Did You Know?
A fire across the street from the State Capitol at the Illinois State Arsenal on February 18, 1934, not only destroyed the building, but also wiped out thousands of Illinois war records including many of those from the Civil War. Over a million rounds of ammunition went off during the fire, but miraculously the blasts were contained within the walls of the building and no one was seriously injured. A new armory was built in 1937 and a separate, more fireproof state archives building opened in 1938.