SBenCHAMPAIGN – Last week, Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Office of Management and Budget outlined more than $200 million in suggested cuts to Illinois’ 2018 budget, including reducing funding to several agriculture programs.

“The governor’s cuts would slash funding for key agricultural research and conservation, undermining the ability of our famers to sustain their land and their livelihoods,” said State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign), Vice-Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Agriculture. “I am all for helping Illinois achieve long-term fiscal stability, but I wonder how much more funding to agricultural programs can be reduced without causing harm.”

The governor’s proposed cuts are expected to reduce the budget for the Department of Agriculture by about $21 million. This will affect operations, promotions, export marketing and contractual staff.

Under the plan, funding for Soil and Water Conservation Districts remains at $5 million, equal to the previous year; however, the $2.5 million of cost-share funds was reduced, and an additional $6 million in new appropriations will not be funded.

“I definitely support a balanced budget and spending within your means,” Bennett said. “At the same time, I will continue to advocate for efficient levels of funding for these essential programs because agriculture is the backbone of our state’s economy, and we need to do whatever we can to keep Illinois’ agribusiness growing.”

Category: Press Releases

Scott BennettSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) voted today to protect Illinois college students from crushing college debt.

The Illinois Senate voted to override Governor Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 1351, which creates the Student Loan Bill of Rights and prohibits predatory loan servicers from engaging in any unfair or deceptive practices towards any students and parents.

“At a time where many young people are graduating from college with crippling debt, we need to make sure that students understand their rights and have access to proper resources,” Bennett said. “This legislation is a good first step to take in helping students and their families from falling behind on payments or defaulting on their loans.”

Bennett sponsored the Student Loan Bill of Rights to ensure that students and their families receive clear information about the money they borrow for higher education and how their student loans are serviced.

Over the past decade, student loan debt has doubled to become the largest form of unsecured consumer debt in the country with more than 40 million borrowers owing over $1.4 trillion. Nearly 70 percent of graduates leave college with an average debt burden of $30,000, and one-in-four borrowers are behind on their payments or in default.

Senate Bill 1351 also aims to crack down on the student loan servicing industry that has made it more difficult and more expensive for borrowers to repay their loans.

“Going to college should not be the financial burden that it has become,” Bennett said. “Every student in Illinois should have the opportunity to advance or complete their education without the fear of debilitating debt upon graduation.”

Category: Press Releases

SBSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) voted today to protect collective bargaining rights for the people of Illinois.

“Every employee in Illinois should have the ability to negotiate for fair, safe and competitive rights in the workplace,” Bennett said. “The freedom to collectively bargain builds and protects the middle class, not just for union members, but for all workers.”

The Illinois Senate voted to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 1905, which allows all Illinois workers the freedom to bargain collectively and prohibits local government entities from enacting harmful “right-to-work” laws.

In the past, Governor Bruce Rauner and his allies have tried to pass right-to-work ordinances and zones in the state. These right-to-work laws prevent Illinois workers from participating in collective negotiations for better wages, benefits and safe working conditions.

“Right-to-work is an inaccurate name for a policy designed to take away rights from hardworking families,” Bennett said. “This law will help tilt the balance away from big corporations and boardroom executives that work to rig the system at the expense of working families.”

Senate Bill 1905 passed the Senate with bipartisan support and now moves to the House for consideration.

Category: Press Releases

illinois jane adams state trail landscape with clouds with haystacks

“We must recruit and retain qualified educators who want to teach agriculture programs for future generations.” - State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign)

SPRINGFIELD – A shortage of trained teachers for agricultural classes in schools may soon have a solution under legislation signed by the governor today. The governor signed the bill at the Illinois State Fair’s annual Agriculture Day.

Despite the fact that 25 percent of jobs in Illinois are related to agriculture, there is a shortage of trained agriculture teachers.

State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) sponsored Senate Bill 1991 to try and address this problem.

“Agriculture and downstate Illinois are inseparable,” Bennett said. “We must recruit and retain qualified educators who want to teach agriculture programs for future generations.”

SB 1991 creates the Agriculture Education Shortage Task Force, which will make recommendations on recruiting and retaining agriculture education teachers and making reforms to current licensure and testing requirements.

The final report will be released no later than January 1, 2019. Members of the task force will serve voluntarily and will not be compensated with taxpayer money.

Category: Press Releases

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