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Update From the Capitol Oct. 25

Friday, October 25, 2019 - Posted 12:43:56 PM by Rep Tom Bennett

As always, you can reach me through the contact form at, 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.

Six-year plan released for state highway projects

On Monday the Illinois Department of Transportation released its long-awaited list of projects to be funded by the Rebuild Illinois capital program we passed this spring. It includes hundreds of millions of dollars over the next six years for dozens of projects in all five counties of the 106th district.

A lot of details still remain to be worked out regarding the timing of these projects, which are scheduled to occur between now and the year 2025. The list released this week includes only state projects. Additional funds are being made available to cities, counties and townships, and they will be releasing their own lists of projects in the future.

These newly-announced projects include work such as a rehabilitation of pavement on I-39 in Woodford County, reconstructing miles of U.S. 24 and U.S. 45 in Iroquois County, replacing a bridge and improving drainage along Illinois Route 1 in Vermilion County, rehabilitating the pavement on Illinois Route 9 in Ford County, and a series of improvements to Illinois Route 17 in Livingston County. All told, the big picture for the 106th district is as follows: 113 projects on 471.49 miles of state roads for a total investment in our area of $410,417,000.

Many of these projects are long overdue, and I am glad to see that they have finally been authorized and are going to be funded. These projects will make our roads safer and will help our local economy. Our kids will have safer roads for their school buses, our first responders will have an easier time answering calls in rural areas, our farmers will have better roads for getting their products to markets, and all of us will have safer, more efficient highways when we travel.

For the full list of projects authorized for the 106th district over the next six years, go to

Visit to One Earth Energy

Last week I joined with Senators Bill Cunningham and Scott Bennett to visit with Steve Kelly, One Earth Energy, and the Illinois Corn Growers as part of an opportunity to learn more about ethanol and visit the ethanol plant in Gibson City. It was a very well organized and educational event. One Earth Energy is an important partner in the agriculture industry and a strong partner with the local community. This was time very well spent. As one of the leading corn producing states in the nation, ethanol is an important part of the future of cleaner fuels and the Illinois agriculture industry.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,681,192,881 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.

Tunnel to Towers comes to Watseka

Watseka hosted the Tunnel to Towers mobile exhibit this past weekend. It is a traveling display which commemorates the terrible events of September 11, 2001, while honoring those who lost their lives that morning and in the days and years since. Tunnel to Towers gets its name from the story of off-duty Firefighter Stephen Siller who did not let a closed tunnel stop him from responding to the disaster: he put on 60 pounds of equipment and ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center site where gave his life to save others.

The special guest for the Watseka presentation was Dave Munson, who shared his story from that day. We also heard a great speech from Nita Dubble. The event honored our first responders, EMTs, Police and Fire and stressed the importance of recalling the events of that day and the terrible loss of life, honoring our heroes and telling the stories of what happened that day. I appreciate the opportunity to have been a small part of such a solemn occasion, and am thankful to those who serve and those who spent countless hours bringing all this together.

Legislation filed to eliminate automatic pay hikes for legislators

This spring, legislators received a pay raise which we did not deserve. I have been donating my raise each month to a local group here in the district. Back in the 1980s, the General Assembly enacted a law to give legislators automatic cost-of-living adjustments each year unless the House and Senate specifically act to stop them. To prevent the raise from going into effect each year, the legislature can pass a bill preventing it (I co-sponsored this bill last year, but it was not called for a vote). Now we have legislation which will change the 1980s law and do away with the automatic pay raise altogether.

House Bill 3910 will phase out and end the automatic cost-of-living pay adjustments for legislators effective at the start of the next fiscal year on July 1. Because legislative pensions are also tied to lawmakers' pay, stopping these annual increases would have the added benefit to taxpayers of reducing the future cost of General Assembly pensions. The bill has been referred to the House Rules Committee.

Did You Know?

One of the most legendary Halloween pranks in history was pulled off by an Illinoisan. Orson Welles was raised in Chicago and started in theater in Woodstock, Illinois. In October 1938, Welles and his "Mercury Theater of the Air" troupe performed a dramatized version of H.G. Wells' novel War of the Worlds over the CBS radio network. The play, written as series of breaking news updates about an invasion from Mars, was so realistic that it terrified thousands throughout the country.