As always, you can contact me via webform at repbennett.com, or by phone at (815) 432-0106 (Watseka) or (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac). Thank you for the honor of serving as our district's representative in Springfield.
Revenue report shows some mixed results
The latest Illinois revenue numbers have been released, and the report shows some mixed results for the state. Income tax revenues were down, falling by $48 million compared to last year. Of that decline, corporate income taxes made up $21 million, or just less than half. Revenue from cigarette taxes was also down, declining by $17 million from this time a year ago.
Sales tax revenue, on the other hand, was up in August, gaining $26 million over numbers from the year before. Some economists see this as a positive sign as it indicates additional economic activity and that more Illinoisans have the ability to buy big-ticket items like new cars. Local governments throughout the state also benefit from the upward trend as they get a share of the revenue collected from the state sales tax, on top of any local sales tax they may charge on their own.
The report also speculated on the effect of the recent move by the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates. It is possible that lower rates would lead to more housing purchases or re-finances of existing mortgages, which could in turn create more cash flow for Illinois households. The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA), the non-partisan group which produced the report, further speculated that such improved cash flow to Illinoisans would make more purchases possible, thus leading to more sales tax revenue for state and local governments, and a better overall economic climate for the state.
Donating the pay raise
Earlier this summer all 177 state legislators received a pay raise. I opposed this measure and even sponsored legislation to prevent it from happening, but Speaker Madigan declined to allow a vote on my bill, so the raise went forward. I do not believe the work the legislature did this year justifies a raise, and so I have decided to donate mine to a local non-profit each month.
This month, I was proud to donate these funds to Rick Ertel on behalf of the Gibson Area Food Pantry. They are a well-oiled machine which does much to help those in need in our local area. My thanks to Rick and all the workers at the food pantry for providing this important service to our community. Services are available from the food pantry on the second and fourth Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. until noon. The pantry is located at 619 E. First Street in Gibson City and can be reached by telephone at (217) 771-4100.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,792,587,584 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $7.3 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 $133 billion.
Some signs of recovery from the wet spring
The weekly crop report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows some improvement in corn and bean fields throughout the state following the excessively wet spring this year. Overall, Illinois cornfields have been getting the right amount of sun and moisture over the past few months. Meanwhile, most of the state's bean fields have bloomed and set their pods. But according to the first USDA report of September, we still have a way to go before most crops are mature enough for harvest. The report rated Illinois corn conditions at 75% fair-to-good and 19% poor or very poor. Soybeans stood at 76% fair-to-good and 17% poor or very poor.
Visit with Gibson City Lions, Prairieview Fall Festival
We had a very busy spring session in the Capitol this year, and it makes for a pretty extensive Springfield update presentation. This week I visited with the Gibson City Lions Club to discuss this year's legislative session and what kind of activity we might see in the months ahead. As always, I appreciate the great questions and conversation about all that is going on in state government.
There was a great turnout for the Prairieview Lutheran Homes Fall Festival in Danforth. This is an important fundraiser for the community. I enjoyed visiting with Ruth Storm and Marie Monk, as well as the many volunteers who help with putting on this event. Thanks also to everyone who came out for a great meal.
Healthy enrollment numbers from ISU
Illinois State University welcomed 3,860 first-year students this fall, part of a total campus enrollment of 20,878. This constitutes the largest freshman class at ISU since 1986. ISU also reported a large number (1,869) of transfer students this year. ISU proved to be an attractive choice for upperclassmen choosing continue their studies after starting at a two-year institution.
ISU is Illinois's oldest state university. The school's departments of Admission and Enrollment Management report that the 2019-2020 freshman class has a high school GPA of 3.48 (out of a 4.0 scale), averages just under 25 on the ACT and 1121 on the SAT.
Did You Know?
A severe fire in July 1933 caused $100,000 in damage to the Illinois Capitol building before it was extinguished by the Springfield Fire Department. The fire damage was concentrated in rooms above the House chamber, but water damage to the chamber itself was extensive. It was not the only fire to strike the statehouse in its 150-year history, but it is generally considered to be the worst.