Watch out for first responders; Sale of the Thompson Center

Please keep our first responders safe on the roadways

Last summer I was one of the many Illinoisans who was assisted on the roadside by an Illinois State Trooper after my car got a flat tire during a rainstorm. Police, firefighters, paramedics, tow truck operators are among the many first responders who assist motorists in distress alongside our highways. But every time they stop to help someone, they are putting themselves in great danger, as we saw once again a few weeks ago when a state trooper investigating a crash was struck by a drunk driver and had to be hospitalized.

The crash occurred at 2 a.m. on Interstate 94 when the drunk driver rear-ended the trooper’s squad car. Already this year 14 Illinois State Police squad cars have been hit and seven state troopers have been injured.

Please remember to do your part keep our first responders safe on the roadway. State law requires motorists to slow down or move over when you see emergency vehicles on the side of the road. It is a minor inconvenience to change lanes or slow down for a short distance, but it can have major implications.

State finally announces sale of Chicago’s James R. Thompson Center

For almost 40 years the state has owned an office building in downtown Chicago known as the James R. Thompson Center. In recent years the Thompson Center has been plagued with problems, like leaky windows and climate control issues. Taxpayers have spent millions on upkeep while the state tries to sell the building. Selling the Thompson Center has been a major initiative of House Republicans, and now we are finally able to report success.

The long-awaited sale of the Thompson Center has finally been announced, as Google will purchase and renovate the building in downtown Chicago. Google currently has 1800 employees working in an office in Chicago’s Fulton Market. The tech company purchased the building for $105 million. The state will purchase a building on LaSalle Street in Chicago for the offices of state agencies. The new building will have more space and save the state millions in leases in the years to come, as well as save taxpayers the increasing costs of maintenance of the Thompson Center.

Utility assistance applications open on September 1

The autumn round of applications for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will open September 1. Eligible households can get assistance with energy bills for the upcoming season. This assistance is available to income-eligible households for bills such as electric, propane and natural gas. Unlike in previous years, there are no priority groups: all income-eligible applicants may apply beginning September 1 on a first-come, first-served basis.

To apply, contact the utility assistance agency in your county. For a list of agencies in each county, or for information on how to apply, please click here.

Happy birthday Gwen!

I was glad recently to stop by the home of Gwen Ennen, a long time friend and resident of Paxton who is soon to turn 95. We talked about past and current events. Like many Illinoisans she has an opinion on how things are going with our state government. Gwen has been very active in our local community for many years and has met many good people. She cares much about our community and our state. Thank you Gwen for our fun conversation and I hope you have a very happy birthday!

State Fair gets underway in Springfield

After an exciting summer of county fairs across the state, the 2022 Illinois State Fair is now underway in Springfield. This year’s annual showcase of Illinois agriculture began Thursday and runs through next Sunday, August 21.

In addition to the agricultural expositions and competitions, the fair features concerts, rides, food and lots of fun. Each day of the fair has a theme, including Veterans day (Sunday), Senior and Scout Day (Monday), Ag day (Tuesday), First Responder Day (Friday) and Park District Conservation Day (Saturday). You can find the full lineup of state fair events at www.illinoisstatefair.info.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $1,711,433,037 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $4.1 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.

The bill backlog has come down from its high point of over $16 billion five years ago. In the fall of 2017 the state conducted a bond sale which paid down half of the backlog and left the remaining half with a lower interest rate. Since then, the backlog has been gradually shrinking, meaning that vendors have not had to wait as long to get paid for their products and services.

Did You Know?

The Capitol building is far from the only building in what is known as the Capitol Complex in downtown Springfield. The complex includes the Stratton Office Building (where my Springfield office is located), the Secretary of State’s offices in the Howlett Building, and buildings housing the Attorney General, Supreme Court, State Archives and State Museum.

More news from around the state

Find out if you are eligible for individual income tax or property tax rebates

Sales tax holiday on school supplies ends on Sunday August 14

How to keep teen athletes safe from heat illness

Federal report calls out IDES for failing to disclose data on misspending

IDFPR, Illinois AG warn of new scam targeting banking consumers