Firefighter tax credit; Unemployment insurance debt

Bill would create tax credit for volunteer firefighters

This week I spoke at a press conference in support of Senate Bill 3027, legislation I am co-sponsoring to create a tax credit for volunteer firefighters. This bipartisan bill has passed the Senate and is now awaiting action in the House. The tax credit would serve as an incentive to recruit more volunteer firefighters. Volunteer firefighters are critical to public safety in districts like ours which have so many small towns and so much rural territory. The credit is also a way of saying thank you to our volunteer firefighters for their service.

Unemployment debt repayment plan takes a wrong turn

Things can change very quickly in Springfield. Last week I told you about the efforts to finally begin paying back the $4 billion which Illinois had to borrow from the federal government in order to pay the surge of unemployment claims that resulted from the lockdowns during the pandemic. This week the repayment planning took a wrong turn and started moving toward a tax increase on jobs.

Most other states used federal ARPA funds to pay back their debt. But the Democrats who run the General Assembly in Illinois took a different path: spending much of our ARPA funds on new programs and one-time expenditures, leaving the debt unpaid and beginning to accumulate interest. This week Democrats in the General Assembly rolled out a plan to pay back about half of the debt while leaving a $1.8 billion hole to be filled by Illinois taxpayers. They would then take the remaining ARPA funds and use them for their spending wish list: hundreds of millions of dollars for pork projects only in Democrat-held districts.

If we do not use the ARPA funds to pay back all of what we owe, our only choices for eliminating the debt will be raising taxes on jobs or cutting unemployment benefits to those who need them. I cannot believe we are considering either of those as options when a better choice is available. We have to do better.

Legislation to fight high gas prices

The spike in gas prices in recent weeks has affected us all, whether it is parents driving kids to school each day or farmers taking their equipment out into the fields. It follows a year or more of steadily rising prices for gas and almost everything else Illinoisans need to buy. Prices have increased by an average of 7.9% over the past year according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and some products have gone up much more than that. A lot of the cause of this inflation is due to factors coming from Washington, but there are a few things we can do at the state level to bring prices down right away.

Illinois is one of the few states that charges a sales tax on gas – on top of the state and federal gas tax. So when the price of gas goes up, the amount of sales tax you pay for it goes up as well. I am one of the sponsors of a bill which would cap that sales tax so that when prices shoot upwards like they have this month, the sales tax would stop going up. It isn’t a silver bullet, but it is something we could do right now that would bring the price down a little bit. In the meantime, our country needs to get back to pursuing policies which make us energy independent.

Honoring a fallen servicemember

Army Corporal Robert D. Janssen of Minonk gave his life for our country on June 3, 1968, in Vietnam. He was born in Bloomington and graduated from Minonk-Dana-Rutland High School in 1966. He had been in the Army for just under a year when he was killed in action.

We must always remember those who have sacrificed so much for our nation and the freedoms we hold dear. As a way of memorializing Corporal Janssen and his service, Senator Jason Barickman and I are sponsoring a joint resolution to rename the section of Interstate 39 outside his hometown of Minonk the “Cpl. Robert D. Janssen Memorial Highway,” so that those who live here and those who visit will know his name and reflect on his sacrifice.

Donating the pay raise

Back in 2019 state legislators were given a pay raise despite the state’s continuing fiscal problems. I vowed that instead of keeping the extra money I would donate it each month to a local nonprofit serving the residents of the 106th district. This month I was proud to support Rick Allen and the American Legion Skinner-Trost Post 122 in Cullom for their Gift to the Yanks program. They are a good group and I want to thank them for all that they do for our community.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $3,382,118,049 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $5.0 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.

Did You Know?

Illinois has 102 counties, which ranks us sixth in the nation for the number of counties. Of the five states which have more, only Texas (254) has a larger population than Illinois. The other four states with more counties than Illinois are Georgia (159), Kentucky (120), Missouri (114) and Kansas (105). Four other states have larger populations than Illinois, but fewer counties: California (58), Florida (67), New York (62), and Pennsylvania (67).

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