As always, you can contact me via webform at repbennett.com, or by phone at (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac) or (815) 432-0106 (Watseka). Thank you for the honor of serving as our district's representative in Springfield.
Glad to be back in Springfield
After several weeks of recovery from a recent car accident, I was happy to once again be among my colleagues at the Capitol as we reconvened on Tuesday. It's been a long road back, and I still have some healing to do, but it is great to be fully back at work representing the people of the 106th district.
My family and I continue to be appreciative of all the support and well wishes we have received over these last weeks. They mean a great deal to all of us, and they remind me of what a privilege it is to represent such a great district as ours.
Busy times ahead in the Capitol
The House and Senate came back into session on Tuesday after two weeks off for the Easter recess. We came back to a very full agenda which will have to be considered before the scheduled May 31 adjournment. Almost 400 bills came out of the Senate and over to the House this week. Bills that passed the House may be amended in the Senate and therefore need to come back to the House for concurrence with any changes.
A number of major issues are still unresolved and likely to be heard over the next month. Included among these are several of Governor Pritzker's proposed changes to the tax structure, such as the Constitutional amendment allowing the graduated income tax increase. That legislation passed the Senate on Wednesday. This is nothing but a blank check to Springfield politicians to enable more reckless spending.
We also expect to see the Governor's proposed new tax on plastic shopping bags and the possible tax hikes on gasoline and video gaming. We are likely to see legislation proposing the legalization and regulation of both sports gambling and cannabis. Pension reform remains an important priority too, as well as capital improvements to our infrastructure. On top of all this, we still need to pass a balanced budget by May 31. It's going to be a busy month around the Capitol!
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,188,918,993 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $6.3 billion. 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 subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be approximately $130 billion.
Visit with Pontiac Kiwanis
A big thank you goes out to Ron Baker for the invitation to speak to the Pontiac Kiwanis club last week and to provide a Springfield update. They are a really great organization! I always appreciate the great questions. As I mentioned above, a lot of issues will be discussed between now and the end of May and I always enjoy the chance to hear from groups of local citizens about each of these issues and concerns.
A few weeks ago I asked readers of my electronic newsletter to weigh in with their answer to the question of what is the biggest issue the Illinois General Assembly needs to address this spring. The top vote getter among respondents was that we need to do something about reforming our pension system, which is routinely ranked among the worst-funded in the nation. The second most popular answer was that we need to pass a balanced budget.
These two issues fit closely together as every year that we delay solving our pension crisis, it claims an even larger share of our state budget: funds that therefore cannot go to education, public safety, roads or any other priority. There have been some ideas proposed this spring, but they have not yet coalesced into a firm proposal that would actually solve the problem, get enough votes to pass, and comply with the requirements of our state Constitution. It's another issue that we are going to have to work on in May.
Did You Know?
Votes are cast in the Illinois House by using an electronic voting switch located on each member's desk. There is a green button for a yes vote, red for no and yellow to vote present. As votes are cast, they are displayed on two large signboards on either side of the chamber. Electronic voting was introduced in 1951.