Leadership appointment; Opposing another tax increase

Named to House Republican leadership team

I was honored this week to be selected by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin as a member of his leadership team for the upcoming 102nd General Assembly. As an Assistant Republican Leader I will have an even greater opportunity to influence policy and get things done for our district and for the state.

When making the appointment, Leader Durkin commented that, “Tom has been a longstanding, tireless advocate for his region and small businesses in his district, and has never once backed down in getting the answers and solutions they desperately need. Whether it’s fighting for more efficiency at IDES or working to get small businesses re-opened during the pandemic, Tom will bring that drive to our Leadership team and ensure the House Republican Caucus has a voice at every table he finds himself at.”

I appreciate Leader Durkin’s kind words and the opportunity to serve our district and the state in this capacity. We hope for a busy spring session ahead, and I am looking forward to making positive change.

House Republicans speak out against proposed tax increase on small business

I stand with my House Republican colleagues who spoke out in opposition to a proposal which could increase taxes on small businesses by anywhere from $500 million to $1.4 billion.

In the closing hours of the lame duck session, Democrats tried to rush through legislation which would have “decoupled” Illinois from language in the federal CARES Act intended to let hard-hit small businesses deduct their additional pandemic losses from 2020. It would result in the state taking away federal tax relief from small businesses which are barely hanging on due the pandemic and the shutdowns.

We were able to stop the proposal in its tracks when it was called for a vote in the middle of the night, but the Governor has stated that he intends to make the tax hike a priority for the spring session. This aid from Washington was intended to help businesses survive the many hardships which they have been subjected to over the past year. It should not be swept away by Springfield. I intend to oppose this effort again this spring.

Region 2 moves forward in re-opening

Region 2, which includes Livingston and Woodford counties, has moved forward into Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois re-opening plan. The move was announced after figures from the region indicated that it had made enough progress in slowing the spread of the coronavirus to safely take the next step. Region 2 stretches west from our district to the Quad Cities. Last week Region 6, which includes Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties also advanced to Phase 4.

For guidelines into what Phase 4 means for businesses, offices, recreation and more, please click here.

DNR to re-open State Museum, historic sites

As the state finally begins moving forward from the shutdowns, the Department of Natural Resources reported some good news this week, opening up state museums and historic sites. The Illinois State Museum facilities in Springfield and Lewistown re-opened this week. Another facility in Lockport remains closed because that region has not yet moved as far forward in the re-opening process. Face coverings and social distancing are still required and museum staff will conduct regular sanitizing of high-touch surfaces. Some hands-on exhibits remain closed.

DNR will also re-open many state historic sites this week. Those historic sites which are re-opening will continue to take safety precautions such as limiting guided tours to 10 people or less and limiting overall capacity to no more than 50 people at a time. DNR is recommending that anyone interested in visiting a historic site please call ahead to ensure they can get into the site. More information is available from DNR by clicking here.

Unemployment went up in December

The unemployment rate in Illinois increased to 7.6 percent, up from 6.9 percent in November. The figures reflect the effects of the lockdowns which were re-imposed in many parts of the state in the fall. Illinois continues to trail the national average of 6.7 percent. One year ago the unemployment rate in Illinois was 3.9 percent.

Some areas of the economy saw improvement, the largest of which was “Professional and Business Services,” where Illinois gained 13,000 jobs. Unfortunately these gains were cancelled out by the loss of 40,900 jobs in “Leisure and Hospitality,” the segment of the economy which includes bars and restaurants. Leisure and Hospitality has lost a total of 198,100 jobs over the past year. In total, Illinois lost 423,000 nonfarm jobs in 2020.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $4,756,288,805 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $6.6 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 more than $141 billion.

More news from around the state

The latest update from the Department of Public Health

People over 65, frontline essential workers now qualify for vaccine

Illinois launches new COVID vaccination website

Small departments worry about cost of body cameras required by Illinois police reform bill

Attorney General announces task force on unemployment benefits fraud

Unemployment 1099 tax form recipients could be victims of fraud if they didn’t file for benefits

To get all the latest news and information from every Illinois state agency, visit the state’s newsfeed website at https://www2.illinois.gov/news. There you will find the latest press releases from state agencies. If you want to receive updates only from the agencies you select, you can sign up to receive state agency news alerts by going to https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/gov/pages/communicationsoptin.aspx and signing up for e-mail news updates.

For additional helpful resources, click here.

My district offices remain closed to in-person visits, but are still accessible by phone at (815) 432-0106 (Watseka) and (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac).