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Update from the Capitol 5/4/2018

Friday, May 04, 2018 - Posted 9:39:38 AM by Rep. Tom Bennett
As always, you can contact me via webform at, or by phone at (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac) or (815) 432-0106 (Watseka).

House and Senate Republicans call for adoption of revenue estimate

When you make your household budget, you probably start by considering two questions: what will my expenses be, and how much money will I have to work with. Making a state budget should not be any different. Yet, while we always consider the first question, in recent years we have failed to consider the second one, even though we are required to by the Illinois Constitution. House and Senate Republicans have each filed resolutions calling on the legislature to adopt a revenue estimate in order to begin the budgeting process for fiscal year 2019.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin called it "our constitutional duty to taxpayers across Illinois to spend within our means." Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady said a revenue estimate would be, "an important step forward as it will help the budgeteers that are currently meeting to work toward a balanced budget."

House Joint Resolution 124 projects that we will have $37.672 billion in revenue for fiscal year 2019. That number is based on the estimate provided to the legislature by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA).

It is such a common sense concept that I find it hard to believe that we have not taken this basic step in creating a state budget. How can you know how much you can spend if you do not know how much you have? In fact, it is more than just a concept: it is required by existing statute and by the state Constitution. The law reads: "The House and Senate by joint resolution shall adopt or modify such estimates as may be appropriate. The joint resolution shall constitute the General Assembly's estimate, under paragraph B of Section 2 of Article VIII of the Constitution, of funds estimated to be available during the next fiscal year."

The idea of a balanced budget, beginning with an estimate of available revenue is also required by Article VIII of the state Constitution: "Appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year."

The editorial board of the Springfield State Journal-Register has also called for adoption of a revenue estimate in a recent editorial. This is a responsible, common sense step that needs to be taken if we are ever going to get to a balanced state budget.

State receives $16 million federal grant to fight opioid abuse

Illinois will have an additional $16 million in funding from Congress to fight the opioid crisis thanks to a grant received through the 21st Century Cures Act. The grant money will flow through the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) to medical service providers around the state who are fighting opioid abuse and providing treatments.

It is estimated that 2000 Illinoisans lost their lives due to the abuse of opioid drugs, including heroin and fentanyl in 2017. A large part of the grant money will be used for new treatment and recovery services, including medication-assisted treatment. These treatments include the use of medications such as methadone and buprenorphine, which reduce withdrawal symptoms. The treatment options will be offered to persons recently released from jail who are diagnosed as being at risk for recidivism. The state will also use the funds to strengthen enforcement of the Illinois Prescription Monitoring Program, which monitors and enforces the prescription status of opioid painkillers.

Illinois already has efforts underway to combat the opioid crisis, and this grant will supplement them. The funds will help to expand the access first responders have to naloxone, which can save the life of a victim who is in an overdose situation if it is administered quickly enough. According to IDHS, funds like these have trained nearly 18,000 responders to administer naloxone.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,465,150,669 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.

Back in the district this week

After three weeks in Springfield, the House was not in session this week so that members could tend to business back in their districts. I always use these breaks from session to travel around the district and talk to as many people as I can to find out what is on their minds. Tuesday morning I had the chance to sit down with some law enforcement officers and township officials in Odell. It was a very thoughtful conversation that touched on issues of school safety, law enforcement and local government. Thanks to those who attended and to all those who have shared their thoughts and ideas with me throughout the legislative session. We will be back in Springfield for the remainder of this month.

More guidance to persons in schools who are affected by dyslexia

I was glad to support House Bill 4369, a bill sponsored by Rep. Keith Sommer which directs the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to put together an online handbook which provides guidance on dyslexia and its challenges and issues in an educational setting. The handbook is intended for school personnel, students and their families. The legislation calls upon ISBE to study educational best-practices policy on dyslexia issues and to make updates to the online handbook at least once in every 4 years. Because the handbook will be placed online, but not printed, it will be widely available to those wishing to utilize it, but costs to taxpayers will be kept to a minimum. The measure was approved unanimously by the House.

Bicentennial commission to honor Illinois Veterans

The Illinois Bicentennial Commission and the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs (IDVA), has announced the "Honor 200" initiative to honor selected veterans from throughout Illinois. The program asks Illinoisans to nominate someone who is: (a) a veteran of the U.S. armed forces, and (b) exemplifies the meaning of selfless service, courage, and compassion. Those wishing to participate in the selection process should submit nominations to IDVA by July 31.

The nominations must include the nominee's DD214 proof of honorable discharge, and a written summary of the nominee's life achievements. The nomination asks for such information as military service dates and a list of the nominee's awards and decorations. Those selected as "Honor 200" veterans will be honored during the bicentennial celebration on December 3, 2018.

Did You Know?

Abraham Lincoln's funeral train arrived back in Springfield on May 3, 1865, after a 2000 mile journey from Washington. The funeral train re-traced Lincoln's route to Washington in 1861, stopping for funeral ceremonies in many northern cities along the way. In Pontiac, a large crowd of mourners gathered to pay their respects to Lincoln, waiting several hours for the train, which finally arrived close to midnight. The arrival ceremony in Springfield was re-enacted in 2015 as part of the 150th anniversary commemoration.