ScottBCHAMPAIGN – Last week, the United States Senate passed a sweeping overhaul of the tax code that will touch almost every corner of the economy, affecting families, small business owners and teachers in the 52nd district.

“This is the federal government’s biggest tax rewrite in decades. And who will it help? Corporations and the one percent,” said State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign). “The biggest benefits of this tax plan are going to flow to the wealthiest at the expense of hardworking Illinois families and that is unacceptable.”

Under the tax plan, Republicans in Congress are slashing the tax rates of those who can afford to pay them. They are also debating to eliminate a $250 tax credit that allows teachers, principals or teachers’ aides to write off classroom supplies that they buy with their own money.

According to Bennett, this is especially concerning because a 2013 study by the National School Supply and Equipment Association found that 99.5 percent of teachers use their own money on school supplies, spending $485 on average in one school year.

“If they remove this tax credit, Washington will be sending a slap in the face to Illinois teachers who work tirelessly every day to educate our children,” Bennett said. “We need to be finding more ways to show our support to teachers, not taking away the small token of appreciation that we have to give them.”

The tax plan now heads to a Congressional conference committee. Bennett is urging members of Congress to vote against this proposal.

Scott BennettSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) voted today to give Illinoisans more transparent and up-to-date reports of the state’s financial picture.

The Illinois Senate voted to override the governor’s veto of The Debt Transparency Act. House Bill 3649 would require state agencies to report on a monthly basis to the comptroller’s office the total amount of unpaid bills they’re holding and estimate how much interest is owed on those bills.

“This is a commonsense reform that will ensure the government is being transparent with its taxpayers,” Bennett said. “In order for Illinois to become more fiscally sound, we need real-time, accurate information of the state’s financial status, and this bill is a good first step in achieving that.”

In the past two years, the state’s bill backlog has nearly tripled, making it all the more urgent that lawmakers receive timely reporting of the consequences of not having a budget.

Current state law only requires agencies to report on Oct. 1 of each year the aggregate amount of bills being held on the previous June 30. However, this information is outdated by the time it is sent to the comptroller. Presently, agencies already have the personnel and infrastructure in place to compile the data.

“Good government begins with accountability and transparency,” Bennett said. “Taxpayers absolutely deserve to know how their money is being spent. At the same time, we in the legislature need to know the vital information this bill will provide before we’re making critical budget decisions.”

House Bill 3649 will go into effect immediately.

UIUCCHAMPAIGN – The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been given a $29,000 Radio Information Service Grant from the Illinois Secretary of State.

Through this grant, WILL-FM, the radio station at the University, will provide information to those who are visually impaired, physically handicapped and the elderly living in Urbana and the surrounding area.

“Thanks to this grant, more residents in the Champaign-Urbana area will have the opportunity to access information they need,” State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) said. “Anyone – regardless of limited visual or physical ability – should be able to participate more fully in our society.”

Specifically, the grant will give those who are visually impaired and physically handicapped access to local daily and weekly newspapers, magazines and different types of books.

The service also provides in-depth and detailed reporting that will be broadcast on a special radio called a sideband receiver. These receivers are distributed at no cost to qualified recipients and anyone who has a visual or physical disability impairing their ability to read may be eligible to obtain a special radio.

WILL-FM’s informational service programs are broadcast daily and include hours of local programming for the audience’s enjoyment and enrichment. Volunteers will read local newspapers, news that may not generally be heard on the television news broadcast and a variety of topics including comics, grocery ads and obituaries.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity to engage more members of our community,” Bennett said. “This program will make it possible for those who are visually or physically impaired to be current and knowledgeable about the world around them.”

SBenCHAMPAIGN – Last week, Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Office of Management and Budget outlined more than $200 million in suggested cuts to Illinois’ 2018 budget, including reducing funding to several agriculture programs.

“The governor’s cuts would slash funding for key agricultural research and conservation, undermining the ability of our famers to sustain their land and their livelihoods,” said State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign), Vice-Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Agriculture. “I am all for helping Illinois achieve long-term fiscal stability, but I wonder how much more funding to agricultural programs can be reduced without causing harm.”

The governor’s proposed cuts are expected to reduce the budget for the Department of Agriculture by about $21 million. This will affect operations, promotions, export marketing and contractual staff.

Under the plan, funding for Soil and Water Conservation Districts remains at $5 million, equal to the previous year; however, the $2.5 million of cost-share funds was reduced, and an additional $6 million in new appropriations will not be funded.

“I definitely support a balanced budget and spending within your means,” Bennett said. “At the same time, I will continue to advocate for efficient levels of funding for these essential programs because agriculture is the backbone of our state’s economy, and we need to do whatever we can to keep Illinois’ agribusiness growing.”

 
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