Update from the Capitol 6/7/2019
Friday, June 07, 2019 - Posted 4:43:12 PM by Rep. Tom Bennett
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.
Last minute compromises salvage a rough spring session
For most of the spring session of the General Assembly, family farms and small businesses had a rough time. A minimum wage increase that went beyond what many businesses in our area could afford; followed by an income tax-rate schedule that will raise their taxes; were passed into law. I opposed both measures.
But in the last hours of the session, House Republicans succeeded in negotiating for some reforms to state law which will help our job creators and our state's economy. In fact, it would not be exaggerating to say that in the last 36 hours of session we achieved more pro-jobs reforms than we had in the last several years. But we still have a long way to go.
The compromise bill package we passed on Saturday evening was not perfect. It has some elements which I do not like. But it also made some important reforms to create jobs and included funding to fix our roads. Every day I hear from friends and neighbors in every part of our district about the conditions of our roads and bridges.
If our roads crumble, our rural communities and our economy crumble with them. Strong infrastructure is vital to our future. This legislation creates the program to finally upgrade our infrastructure and the mechanism to pay for it.
We negotiated legislation to cut red tape and reduce the costs of running a business in Illinois. There is a credit which will help reinvigorate our manufacturing industry, and a first-of-its-kind in the nation tax credit to spur construction projects and create blue collar jobs. For the long term, this package of bills is good for every part of our state: for schools, for farmers, for businesses, for everyone who uses our roads and for our prospects for creating and retaining jobs in Illinois.
We still have work to do to become more competitive with our neighboring states which have been taking our jobs for far too long. But in the last few days of session, we took a big step in the right direction. Making sure that our farmers and businesses have a safe, reliable modern transportation system is one of the best things we can do for our economy.
No salary hike for legislators!
Every year, the salary of state legislators automatically increases unless we adopt legislation specifically preventing it. We have done so each year since I joined the General Assembly, but for some reason this year Speaker Madigan declined to call the bill stopping the raise for a vote. I do not believe legislators are deserving of a pay hike after the year we've had.
Accordingly, I have taken three actions. First, I voted against the budget bill which contained the funds for the raises. Second, I co-sponsored legislation to prevent the raise from going into effect. Speaker Madigan also refused to call this bill for a vote, so I am now taking a third action: refusing to keep any of the extra pay which might come from this pay raise; whether that means writing a check back to the state treasury, donating the funds to local charities, or some combination of the two. The taxpayers of Illinois should not be forced to hand over more money to state legislators. I will do my part to make sure they don't have to.
Anti-Second Amendment bill stopped in Senate
Last week I told you about Senate Bill 1966, an anti-Second Amendment bill which would drive up the cost of FOID cards and require all applicants for a FOID card to be fingerprinted. I voted against the bill when it passed the House. It went back over to the Senate, where it did not pass. It was a relief to see this bill stopped. As I said before: when someone commits a crime and has their FOID card revoked, we need to do a better job of enforcing the law, but the other sections of this bill did too much harm to the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,639,933,874 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $7.5 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.
Meetings coming up in Paxton and Hoopeston
This week I hosted a meeting for residents of the Watseka area to hear a Springfield update and ask their questions about the legislation we heard in the recently concluded spring session of the legislature. We had a good crowd and I appreciate all those who stopped by. Two more meetings are coming up in Paxton and in Hoopeston. On Tuesday June 18, we will be meeting at the Ford County Courthouse, located at 200 W. State Street in Paxton. Another meeting is set for Thursday June 20 at the City Hall in Hoopeston, which is at 301 W. Main Street. Both meetings start at 5:15 p.m. They are open to the public and no RSVP is required. I hope you will drop in and hear the news from the legislature and share your comments and questions.
Getting ready for the Census
The next census of the population of the United States and every city, county and state is set for April 1. Efforts are already underway to make sure that everyone is counted. A full and accurate count is essential for each of our communities so that government agencies have accurate information to use when assessing the needs of each area and when it comes to allocating resources of many federal and state programs. The census also determines our representation in the state legislature and in the U.S. House of Representatives, as seats are apportioned based on population. In the last Census, Illinois was under counted; which cost us billions of dollars in federal aid.
Locally, each of the five counties of the 106th district had participation rates of between 75 and 85 percent in the 2010 Census, meaning as many as 40,000 people may not have been counted. The potential cost in lost funds to the five counties and their municipalities is more than $75 million over the course of the decade.
According to the Census Bureau, "a county stands to lose $1800 per person, per year, for every person not counted or not participating in the Census." One way local leaders and everyday citizens can help is by forming a Complete Count Committee in your local community. More information on ways you can help is available at www.illinoiscensus2020.com.
Did You Know?
It was 155 years ago this weekend that Abraham Lincoln was nominated for a second term in the Presidency. When the Republican convention met in Baltimore there were rumblings against Lincoln from people fed up with the terrible costs of the Civil War. But ultimately Lincoln prevailed at the convention and was re-nominated on June 8, 1864.