04252018CM0183SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett’s (D-Champaign) plan to expand access to grants for low-income students and help attract more students to universities in Illinois was signed into law today.

Bennett sponsored House Bill 5020 to prioritize students currently receiving funds from Monetary Assistance Program, or MAP grants, to continue their college education

Under the new law, returning MAP grant recipients can be the first in line, rather than endure the current “first-come, first served” process for continued funding, assuming they file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on time and continue qualifying for aid. Previously, students were not guaranteed MAP grant money each year, despite being eligible and applying on time.

“After years of uncertainty created by Governor Rauner’s budget impasse, I am glad that we are now able to give students and their families assurance that a MAP grant won’t be one and done,” Bennett said. “Other schools outside of Illinois can guarantee four-year MAP grants, and we needed to offer that same predictability and affordability to parents and students in our state in order to remain competitive.”

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SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett’s (D-Champaign) plan to provide more support to local tourism groups was signed by the governor last week.

Currently, as much as a tenth of the money intended for local tourism groups is being used by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunities (DCEO) for administrative costs. Bennett’s new law would limit DCEO’s current 10 percent cut of the local tourism funds to 3 percent in order to bring that money back into local tourism offices where it can be better spent.

“We all know how valuable our local tourism programs are, especially in Illinois’ bicentennial year,” Bennett said. “This new law will help move money from Springfield and into local tourism offices where it can be better spent.”

Due to the state’s backlog of unpaid bills, local tourism groups like Visit Champaign County have not been receiving state funding to help cover overhead. They have been forced to cancel events, cut advertisements, leave positions unfilled and send fewer people out on the road to promote their cities.

“Our state has so much to offer,” Bennett said. “This is a step in the right direction to help better promote our communities as destinations and bring money back to Illinois.”

The governor signed the law Friday, and it takes effect immediately.

CHAMPAIGN – A bill to help end the long-standing practice of “offshoring” governor staff salaries to state agencies to mask the governor’s budget was signed into law this week, thanks to State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign).

Bennett co-sponsored the Truth in Hiring Act to prohibit the governor from using state agency appropriations to pay for governor’s office employees for the current administration and all going forward.

Bennett says that it’s past time for these deceptive accounting practices to end. Nearly 60 percent of employees currently working for the governor’s office are paid by state agencies for funds intended for priorities such as public safety, economic development and child protection.

“The people of Illinois foot the bill for government and they deserve to know how and on whom their tax dollars are being spent,” Bennett said. “I am glad that the governor’s office is now committing to being open and honest about his office’s expenses.”  

House Bill 5121 goes into effect immediately.

Illini UnionCHAMPAIGN – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) is condemning Governor Bruce Rauner’s baseless remarks against Champaign-Urbana.

During a radio interview in Chicago last Friday, Rauner criticized Champaign-Urbana’s workers and transportation systems.

“Champaign-Urbana is wonderful,” Rauner told WGN AM-720. “But it’s very hard to keep a company of more than six people there. There’s no convenient transportation, not much of a workforce, and it’s very hard.”

Bennett is surprised and disappointed in Governor Rauner’s claims against the workforce.

“I have personally been on a tour of the University of Illinois Research Park with Governor Rauner where we learned that the Research Park has 2,000 employees in high-tech fields and more than 100 companies in just one area of Champaign-Urbana. Then he talks about how ‘it’s hard to keep a company of more than six people there.’ That’s just outright dishonest, frankly. He knows what we have here.”

Recent reports also show that Champaign is one of the fastest growing cities in the state and is outperforming neighboring cities in employment and wage growth, according to data compiled by the state of Illinois.

“I think Champaign-Urbana offers the ideal setting for a public-private partnership,” Bennett said. “We have some of the best minds in the country here on the faculty at University of Illinois and we have some of the top students in the country and the world, so companies like Caterpillar, Anheuser-Busch or brand new start-ups can come here and find employees like our students who are just starting their careers and can bring their brain power and fresh new ideas.”

Bennett also said that the governor’s comments are harmful to the effort to attract more jobs into downstate communities and in Illinois.

“It’s so frustrating,” Bennett said. “As we try to attract jobs to Champaign-Urbana, to Danville, or to Rantoul from out of state, a simple Google search will tell you that our governor continues to be not our biggest cheerleader, which we need him to be, but instead he’s our biggest naysayer.”


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