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Update from the Capitol 2/8/2019

Friday, February 08, 2019 - Posted 10:23:04 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). Thank you for the honor of serving as our district's representative in Springfield.

Illinois has 11th highest tax burden in the nation

An evaluation of the tax structures of all 50 states by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation has discovered that residents of 38 of the 50 states will have lower state and local per-capita tax burdens than Illinoisans will this year.

The findings of the Tax Foundation study indicate that all five of our neighboring states; Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin; will have lower average per-capita state and local tax burdens than Illinois. The same holds true for other large states we compete with for jobs, population and economic development: states such as Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. Among those states found to have a higher average per-capita state and local tax burden were California and New York.

According to the Tax Foundation, the average Illinoisan can expect to pay $5,654 in state and local taxes over the course of 2019. Federal taxes were not included in the study, neither were other non-tax payments to governments, such as fees or fines. The tax figure was calculated for each individual Illinois resident. To determine the tax burden on a family or a household with more than one member, just multiply that tax burden by the number of people.

House committees get to work

The first step for any piece of legislation once it is filed in the House of Representatives is to be heard by a committee. In committee, the sponsor can present the case for the bill, answer questions and call witnesses to provide additional information. Opponents can also counter with witnesses, questions and information of their own if they wish. The committee then reports favorably or unfavorably to the full House.

I am proud to announce that I have been named the Republican Spokesperson on three House committees. The spokesperson is the member charged with leading Republican efforts on each committee and negotiating with the committee's Democratic chairperson to try to arrive at bipartisan consensus wherever possible.

This year, I will be the Republican Spokesperson on the Appropriations Committee dealing with Elementary and Secondary Education, as well as the Health Care Availability and Access Committee and the Committee on Child Care Access and Early Childhood programs. I have also been appointed to the committees on Labor and Commerce; Revenue and Finance; and Elementary and Secondary Education School Curriculum and Policies.

I am excited to have a voice on these committees which deal with tax policy, school funding, health care and issues important to our state's workforce and economy.

Several of the bills I am sponsoring or co-sponsoring this year have been assigned to committees for further action. Some of them include House Bill 898, which would allow qualified county and state correctional officers and retired correctional officers to carry their firearms when off duty if they meet certain training requirements. House Bill 166 and House Bill 167 are important reforms to the state's LINK card system. They would make it harder to commit fraud against these programs by requiring that the primary user authorized for the card have their name and photo visible on the card, and that other authorized users have their names on the card as well. Illinois LINK cards could also only be used to make purchases in Illinois. In this way, we can cut down on fraud and abuse, and ensure that the benefits of this program go only to those who are entitled to receive them.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $7,927,148,246 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $8.6 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.

Locals honored as Pork Producers' Family of the Year

The Illinois Pork Producers held their Legislative Reception last week in Springfield. Senator Jason Barickman and I helped honor brothers Art and Ken Lehmann and their families as the 2019 Illinois Pork Family of the Year. My congratulations go to both families. For years, Art, Ken and their families have worked as a team to grow a business and raise a family. They are an amazing family, and this recognition is very well deserved! It was good to see so many folks from our district gathered for great food and wonderful conversation.

Did You Know?

As cold as it was around here last week it might seem hard to believe, but it actually has been even colder. In fact, coming into 2019 the lowest temperature ever recorded in the state of Illinois occurred in our district. Congerville, in Woodford County, measured a low temperature of -36 degrees on January 5, 1999.