Update From Senator Bennett: Feb. 16

Upcoming Budget Address Shadowed by Looming Deficit

As the Governor prepares to present his annual budget address next week, Senator Bennett and lawmakers are anxious to see how he intends to address the expected budgetary deficit and various points of contention, including the ongoing migrant crisis and free healthcare program for noncitizens.

While the U.S. economy has been more resilient than some economists originally anticipated, the state’s economy is expected to experience a significant decrease in revenues in the coming year, all the while spending is continuing to increase. According to the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, Illinois is projected to face a nearly $900 million deficit for Fiscal Year 2025.

Governor Pritzker’s program to provide free healthcare to noncitizens is a particular point of contention in the upcoming budget process. The program has become one of the state’s largest fiscal responsibilities as well as one of its most scrutinized programs. The Governor claimed last year that new copayment requirements for migrants were expected to reduce some costs. $550 million was allocated for the program, but current estimates say the cost will be at least $200 million over budget. Senator Bennett and other Senate Republicans have repeatedly pushed for the Governor and his allies to focus on other priorities, including existing programs for struggling Illinois citizens.

The projected deficit is also partly due to new permanent spending that was created during the height of the pandemic and funded with federal relief funds. Now those federal sources of money have mostly dried up.

State Senator Bennett says Senate Republicans had repeatedly warned Democratic lawmakers about the potential risks that reckless spending growth would create on the state’s finances once federal funds were exhausted. He says those warnings were ignored and notes the continued push for new programs and more spending has put the state’s finances in a precarious position.

Route 66 Set to Get a Face Lift

Historic Route 66 is set to soon receive a major face-lift in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development recently announced that $3.3 million has been allocated to projects lining the historic route in preparation of its centennial celebration in 2026.

The funds will go toward enhancing experiences and increasing electric vehicle infrastructure along the route, which has been nicknamed “The Main Street of America.” The modernization of Route 66 will be spread across all 300 miles of Illinois roadway it occupies.

Senator Bennett is hopeful the updates will boost the economy of small Illinois towns along the route that once depended upon frequent travelers to stop and shop at their businesses. The goal is to encourage more people to use the route and patronize those businesses.

This modernization project is an extension of the state’s larger “Middle of Everything” tourism campaign. The campaign aims to pay homage to the state’s Midwest roots, centralized location, and highlights how much the state has to offer visitors.

Makers’ Madness Makes a Return

The Illinois Manufacturers Association is once again bringing back their bracket contest, March Madness style, to determine the Coolest Thing Made in Illinois. The tournament, officially named Makers Madness, spotlights Illinois products through fan participation and online voting.

In order to qualify, the product entered into the competition must be made in Illinois. Nominations are open now until March 3 and the field will be narrowed down to 16 contestants through voting March 3-5. The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois will be announced at an awards ceremony on April 10 at the Governor’s Mansion. This contest brings attention to the many incredible products manufactured in Illinois.

Past winners include the world’s largest mechanical truck, the 797F Mining truck, made by Caterpillar Inc. in Decatur; the Self Regulating Traffic Signal Heater, which heats traffic signals so they will not get frozen or damaged by ice, made by Termico Technologies in Elk Grove Village; and the Rosenberg Moon Habitat, which is a 3D-printed structure used to house humans on the moon, made by Ingersoll Machine tools in Rockford. Nominations and votes can be submitted on the Illinois Manufacturers Association website at https://makersmadnessil.com/.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $1,341,546,389.51 to  state vendors, including 30,517 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?

Heart decorations popping up for Valentine’s Day in February may also serve as a reminder that it is also American Heart Month. February is when everyone, especially women, are encouraged to focus on their cardiovascular health. 

Cardiovascular diseases are often thought of as something that mainly affects men, but they are just as common in women. The symptoms of cardiovascular diseases often differ between men and women. For instance, while men might feel chest pain during a heart attack, women could have pain in their jaw, neck, or back. Unfortunately, because people do not expect women to have heart attacks, they often ignore these symptoms, leading to unnoticed heart problems.

Heart disease is still the #1 cause of death for men and women. This year, the American Heart Association is celebrating 100 years of “Bold Hearts” and a vision for advancing health and hope for everyone everywhere. This month reminds everyone to take care of their hearts.

Please visit www.heart.org for more information on ways to learn more about heart attack and stroke symptoms and healthy living practices.  

This Week in the 53rd District

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

Tom Bennett

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