PONTIAC – Those in the local farming community received a legislative update at both the state and federal level during the Livingston County Farm Bureau’s annual Legislative Breakfast on Friday.
State Rep. Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City) noted Illinois is a very diverse state and so is the state legislature.
“We have different constituents with different needs,” he said.
Bennett spoke of the state needing to live within its means. He does not believe more taxes are the answer to the state’s problems. Bennett was impressed with the passion showed by FFA members who recently testified in Springfield.
“If we had more kids involved in FFA, I truly believe we would not have some of the problems we have in Illinois.”
Bennett currently serves on an education task force and he does not feel the current system is working quite right. Bennett said he has been amazed at the politics taking place in Springfield and admits many lawmakers don’t seem to have the ability to work together. More money is expected to be spent on next year’s race for Illinois governor than ever before.
“The politics piece of this overshadows so many of the other aspects,” said Bennett.
Newly-elected State Rep. Jerry Long (R-Streator) believes the state will be better off if the political power is “balanced out.”
“It was never meant to be a lop-sided General Assembly and that’s what we have,” Long told the crowd. “We have a spending problem in Springfield.”
Long was a truck driver for over 30 years and said he supports farmers 100 percent.
Congressman Adam Kinzinger’s aide, Patrick Doggett, reported on several hearings which are underway regarding the new farm bill. Also, President Trump is expected to invest in the nation’s infrastructure in the coming years. Doggett is hopeful the Senate will vote on the new Ag Secretary before the April recess.
“That would be good to finally get that done and let Mr. Perdue get to work,” Doggett said.
State Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) referred to a mixed bag in the Senate with several of the major decisions made by the governor and leadership from both chambers.
“There have been a lot of meetings of the governor and the four tops,” Barickman explained.
Barickman admits it will be difficult for House Speaker Mike Madigan and Gov. Bruce Rauner to find common ground. Negotiations have been underway involving both sides of the political aisle in the Senate.
“On worker’s comp, we’ve gone a long way to strengthen that proposal.”
Barickman suggests the state does its budget for the next year so lawmakers can come up with some sort of compromise to give the state a balanced budget.
“If we come to an agreement in the Senate, all we can do is push that over to the House,” Barickman added.
Livingston County Board Chairman Bob Young also gave a brief update on county issues. He explained last fall’s township by township vote on ordinances dealing with wind energy.
“We got a clear understanding on what the townships wanted,” Young said.
According to Young, the vote gave the county the ability to pull together in an effort to protect the desires of farmers, landowners and others.