Update from Senator Bennett: Feb. 2

Governor Finally Allows Co-Pays for Undocumented Healthcare

In the early summer of 2023, under pressure from the Illinois Legislature, Gov. JB Pritzker promised to implement mandatory co-pays for undocumented immigrants receiving otherwise free healthcare in Illinois. However, his Administration quickly put the plan on hold, allowing undocumented noncitizens enrolled in the program to continue to receive top-tier, free healthcare.

Now, more than three years after launching the program, and approximately eight months after first promising the co-pay requirement, the Pritzker Administration is finally moving forward on the plan, albeit with a major catch. The co-pays aren’t actually required, and providers may choose not to implement them.

The co-pays had first been proposed as part of an effort to rein in the costs of the taxpayer-funded program that were estimated to rise to well over a billion dollars per year. Now, after the months-long pause and little transparency, it will be hard to tell how much will actually be saved.

State Senator Bennett says that Illinois taxpayers should not be paying for nearly free healthcare for noncitizens that is far cheaper than what many Illinois working families can afford. He warns that costs are likely to rise further due to the increased influx of asylum seekers arriving in Chicago. As the majority of asylum seekers are expected to likely be denied asylum, their numbers will likely add to the growing number of undocumented immigrants receiving benefits.

Tax Filing Season Underway

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) announced that they will begin accepting 2023 tax returns on January 29, 2024. Illinois residents can file state returns for free online through the MyTax Illinois website. IDOR is expecting more than 6.2 million individual tax returns this year with 90 percent of all tax returns filed electronically last year. According to IDOR, the quickest way to receive a refund is to set up a direct deposit source at the time of your filing. April 15 will be the tax-filing deadline this year.

This year is the first time Illinoisans can receive the Volunteer Emergency Worker Credit (EIC), which is designed to help offset up to $500 of the training and equipment costs for volunteer firefighters and EMTs.  Additionally, taxpayers 18 years or older (with or without qualifying child), 65 years or older (without qualifying child) and residents with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number are eligible to claim the Illinois Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

IDOR officials say they will continue to crack down on tax fraud. In 2022, they were able to prevent $104 million worth of tax fraud through various methods. They advise that vigilance detecting scam calls, emails and protecting your personal information are the best ways to prevent tax fraud.

Taxpayers may call 1-800-732-8866 or 217-782-3336 or visit tax.illinois.gov for additional information.

Parks and Recreation Boosted by OSLAD Grants

Efforts to expand outdoor recreation are getting a big boost, courtesy of a state grant program. The Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD), now in its 37th year, is providing $54.9 million in grant funding for 111 local park projects in Illinois.

These funds are for the designated communities to buy and develop land for recreation projects. OSLAD was created by the Illinois General Assembly in 1986 to facilitate a cost-sharing partnership between state and local governments to improve parks and recreation.

This program has allocated and distributed almost $585 million for recreation in the state. Studies show that access to outdoor recreation is important for 83 percent of Illinois residents.

Senator Bennett says the program is important because when people are able to get outside more often, it leads to better overall health. These projects also positively impact community morale by giving residents a place to gather and enjoy nature.

Senator Bennett is pleased to announce that in the 53rd district, the cities of Streator, Minooka, and Dwight have all been awarded grants.

New Bill Sponsored by Bennett Helps Ensure the Preservation of Small Family Farms

State Senator Tom Bennett is co-sponsoring a bipartisan proposal aimed to make certain changes concerning estates that contain qualified farm property to help ease the worry of families losing their farm to Illinois’ Estate Tax System.

“This proposal is necessary to help provide stability and protect the future of small-mid size family farms,” said Senator Bennett. “Family farms often represent a rich cultural heritage, passing down traditions and knowledge through generations. They deserve not to worry about losing the farm someday because of our state’s estate tax system.”

Senate Bill 2921 changes the estate death tax and raises the exemption from $4 million to $6 million and will help agriculture, our farm families and all of Illinois. It also makes changes concerning the definition of “qualified heir” to provide that a decedent’s brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, or first cousin is also included.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $872,985,836.18 to  state vendors, including 13,420 pending vouchers. 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 $139 billion. At the same time last year, the state’s accounts payable stood at a little less than $2 billion.

Did You Know?

Illinois Once Again Led the Nation in Soybean Production

Last year, Illinois farmers raised almost 649 million bushels of soybeans, a slight decrease from the previous year, making Illinois the top soybean-producing state. However, the state fell to second in corn production last year, losing to the nearby state of Iowa.

The 43,000 soybean farmers in the state averaged 63 bushels per acre. These Illinoisans persevered through extremes like dry spells, and heavy rains to maintain the soybean production crown.

This Week in the 53rd District

State Senator Tom Bennett – Working full-time to represent you

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