As always, you can contact me via webform at www.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.
Welcome Representative Marron
The 104th district, which borders our 106th district to the southeast, has a new representative. State Representative Mike Marron was sworn in on Friday to the seat vacated by the resignation of Rep. Chad Hays, who had held the seat since 2010.
Rep. Marron served previously as a member of the Vermilion County Board, most recently as its chairman. He was sworn in at the Vermilion County Courthouse by Justice Thomas O'Shaughnessy, where he pledged to work on improving the state's finances and to work toward a balanced budget. Like our district, the 104th has a long border with Indiana, and so its representative is well aware of the area's vulnerability to jobs leaving for a state with a better business climate. Also attending the ceremony were House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and former Representatives Hays, Bill Black and Steve Miller.
A family farmer from the Fithian area, Rep. Marron has also served as an officer in the Illinois Soybean Association and has represented the Illinois Farm Bureau on Capitol Hill. He and his wife Brandy live in Fithian with their daughter. I extend my warmest congratulations and welcome to Rep. Marron, and also thank my friend Chad Hays for his years of service to the state and the region.
Teach Illinois report now available
For the past year, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has been engaged in a review of the teacher shortage which affects so many public schools in the state. Last week, ISBE released its report, Teach Illinois: Strong Teachers, Strong Classrooms, which included its recommendations on what to do to address the shortage of teachers from Pre-K up to 12th grade in schools all over Illinois.
The board conducted more than 40 focus group meetings with hundreds of teachers, parents and others with a direct interest in improving our schools. The study included reviews of problems in urban schools as well as rural districts.
The report contains a number of recommendations which we will be reviewing in the upcoming General Assembly session. They include developing "innovative, results-based approaches to educator preparation," and efforts to "incentivize and create opportunities for P-12 and post-secondary institutions to work together to create streamlined pathways into the teaching profession." The end goal of this review is to help our schools recruit and retain good teachers.
Public comments are being accepted on the report until October 2 at firstname.lastname@example.org. The report can be reviewed in its entirety at https://www.isbe.net/teachillinois.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $7,512,535,325 in unpaid bills to state vendors. 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.
New scholarship partnership at Heartland College
This week I joined Representative Dan Brady at an event announcing the launch of a new scholarship partnership between Enbridge and Heartland Community College. Enbridge is creating scholarships to help students prepare for certain kinds of jobs that are needed now and in the future. This is a win for students and a win for local business. I enjoyed a tour of Heartland's facility in Pontiac where about 200 students attend classes every year.
Illinois has $6 billion in overseas sales each month
The Committee on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) issued a report this month which found that the Illinois private sector exports roughly $6 billion in goods and services every month to buyers outside the borders of the United States. These sales include not just commodities, but also specialty goods and services produced by Illinois workers. Many of these Illinois workers are employed in enterprises which have a globally-dominant market share in their field.
The findings were part of a report from COGFA which indicated that state revenue was up in August. Revenue from the personal income tax was up by $127 million, sales tax receipts increased by $54 million and corporate income taxes went up $35 million compared to last year. These numbers indicate not only the boost that those overseas sales give to Illinois, but to an improving economy in general.
ILCollege2Career.com planning tool launched
Illinois has unveiled a new data portal which allows high school students to have access to information about how much they might earn if they graduate from colleges and universities located in Illinois.
ILCollege2Career.com lets users contrast the relative earnings value of different college degrees. Students can consider data about different schools and areas of study, so that they may look at the different earnings potential of each degree and each school in the state. This is part of the continuing initiative to recruit Illinois students to Illinois colleges and universities.
The website and its data will help students and parents as they go about making college decisions. They will be able to see information about how successful a school's graduates have been. There is also information about other factors including average level of student debt, likelihood of graduating on time and costs of each school.
ILCollege2Career.com came about through a joint effort of the Governor's Office, Illinois Board of Higher Education, the Illinois Community College Board, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, and the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
Did You Know?
Although the south wing of the second floor of the state Capitol is home to the offices of the Secretary of State and the Lieutenant Governor, it is known as the "Hall of Governors" because both sides of the corridor are adorned with portraits of the former Governors of Illinois.