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Springfield… On Sunday afternoon, Governor Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 2225 which creates Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield license plates for Illinois veterans who earned the Southwest Asia Service Medal during their deployment. The bill was introduced into the Senate by State Senator Sue Rezin (R-Morris) and navigated the House with the help of chief co-sponsor State Representative Jerry Long (R-Streator).  The bill received unanimous support in both the House and Senate and went straight to the Governor’s desk. The bill was signed into law at the State of Illinois fairgrounds on Gold Star Family Day.

"I want to thank one of my constituents who served in Operation Desert Storm and who brought this idea forward," State Sen. Sue Rezin said. "If our veterans who served in Southwest Asia want to be able to have on their license plate that they served our country, they should be able to do that. I want to thank all our veterans for their service, selflessness, and bravery. You are the backbone of our great country."

The Veterans of Desert Storm and Desert Shield deserve this recognition for their service to our country and our state,” said Representative Long.  “It is heart-warming when legislation that honors our Veterans receives such overwhelming bi-partisan support.  Legislators on both sides of the aisle were thrilled to sign on as co-sponsors when it was first introduced. It's important that we recognize those who selflessly put their lives on the line for us.”

For more information on legislation passing through the Illinois Legislature, check or contact Rep. Long’s office at 815-510-9689 or Sen. Rezin’s office at 815-220-8720.

Village Engineer, Kevin Heitz (right) explains possilbe remedies to Rep. Long

Utica… State Representative Jerry Long (R-Streator) and State Senator Sue Rezin (R-Morris) toured the Utica stretch of the I&M Canal with State Senator Sue Rezin (R-Morris) and Brad Carlson and Steve Ettinger from the IDNR office to evaluate the efforts necessary to restore it to its full potential. The tour was led by Kevin Heitz, the Village Engineer, and David Stewart, the Village President.  
            This particular stretch of the canal has become overgrown with vegetation due to a lack of flowing water over the past several years. Unfortunately, the berms and aqueducts initially constructed on both ends of the Utica portion of the I&M have deteriorated over time allowing the tributaries of the canal to continue on their original paths. The village is exploring options through IDNR to remedy the situation so that the I&M Canal can again be used by citizens and tourists alike.
            “Utica is in a very unique situation,” said Rep. Long. “As a debt free community they have put themselves in an excellent position to do something about the canal. With the millions of tourists that pass through every year on their way to Starved Rock, the community deserves to enjoy their portion of the I&M for fishing in the summertime, ice skating in the winter, or for a casual hike. Sen. Rezin and I will assist in the process of getting it restored to its former glory in any way we can. I want to extend my thanks to IDNR for being so receptive during this process.”

Streator, IL… On Thursday, the Illinois House of Representatives voted on a state budget plan for the 2019 fiscal year. State Representative Jerry Long (R-Streator) commented on his votes.

“I want to congratulate my colleagues after witnessing the bipartisan effort that took place here in the General Assembly while crafting this budget plan. There are obviously a number of components in this plan that I support, however, I voted against the budget because it fails to fix many of the problems that still plague Illinois. For example, my constituents in LaSalle County pay some of the highest property taxes in the state. This budget does not provide for any property tax relief. It also fails to address the state's $6 billion bill backlog. Lastly, but most importantly, this bill does not repeal the 32% income tax increase enacted on all Illinois families last year. This budget plan simply continues us on the path to fiscal insolvency.”

The budget bill, HB 109 passed the House 97-18 and now heads to the Governor’s desk for consideration.

Springfield, IL – State Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) today introduced House Bill 5864, the Blue Collar Jobs Act, to incentivize construction projects in the state of Illinois and create jobs for the middle class. State Rep. Jerry Long (R-Streator) is a co-sponsor to the bill.

“Our biggest asset here in Illinois is our highly-skilled, labor force,” said Rep. Long.  “If we want to send the message that Illinois is open for business, then we need to put our construction workers to work. That is the goal of this legislation; to create good paying jobs.”

The Blue Collar Jobs Act is supported by both labor and business groups and offers tax incentives to companies making significant capital improvements in Illinois based on the withholding tax paid to construction workers. It does this through the creation of four new tax credits, including:
  •     High Impact Business construction jobs credit
  •     Enterprise Zone construction jobs credit
  •     New Construction EDGE Credit
  •     River Edge construction jobs credit

“We support prioritizing Illinois construction workers in our state’s economic development toolset through incentives for new construction, expansion, and rehabilitation projects,” said Marc Poulos, Executive Director IN, IL, IA FFC, the labor-management group of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150.

The program will work under the same structure as the current EDGE program:
  • Tax credit value is 50% of Illinois income tax withheld of workers covered under the agreement;
  • Tax credit value rises to 75% of Illinois income tax withheld of workers covered under the agreement in areas designated to be in an underserved area that meets certain poverty, unemployment, and federal assistance rates;
  • Tax credit is issued to the organization that builds, renovates or expands the building just as the EDGE tax credit goes to the company hiring the workers. The tax credit is meant to incentivize the company to construct new buildings or improve existing buildings which can’t be built without the use of Illinois labor.

“The Blue Collar Jobs Act gives growing businesses another reason to make substantial capital investments in Illinois to bring more jobs and opportunities to our state,” said Todd Maisch, President and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

The tax credits only become available after the work has been fully completed. There is no risk to the state for a company not meeting its requirement as the state has already captured the withholding tax prior to the tax credit being issued.

HB 5864 has been introduced is waiting to be assigned to committee.

Springfield… Today, the Illinois House of Representatives passed HJR 105 to rename the Route 23 bridge in South Streator the "Vietnam Veteran Michael W. Ragusa Memorial Bridge." The resolution was introduced by state Rep. Jerry Long (R-Streator) after Michael Ragusa (USMC Ret.) passed away from cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange, the herbicide and defoliant chemical used by the United States forces during the Vietnam War.

“Michael Ragusa dedicated his life to others,” Rep. Long said on the House floor.  “His legacy is reflected in his family, his wife Roseann, daughters Renee and Kim, and three grandchildren as well as in the lives of the countless veterans he assisted and their families.  It is only fitting that we dedicate the Route 23 bridge in Streator over the Vermillion River in his name. This is the bridge he passed over every day to go out and assist his brothers in arms.”

Michael Ragusa began his service in 1968 at the age of 19 in the 2nd Marine Division in Vietnam, then as a Medivac in Japan, and ended his enlistment here in Illinois at the Great Lakes Naval Base. His service to our country and its veterans did not end with his enlistment, though. Michael worked for the Disabled American Veterans and the AMVets, eventually becoming the Deputy Service Officer for Illinois AMVets. Michael also served his community as a member of the Streator VFW, AMVet Riders, Pekin Marine Corps League, Streator American Legion, and Streator Elks Club. 

The Illinois Valley is under a flood warning following the massive amounts of rain and melting snow over the last 24 hours. The Illinois River has risen nearly 9½ feet in 24 hours and the National Weather Service now projects major flooding that could crest 6 inches short of the record flood of April 2013.

Rep. Long's office is aware of the situation communities like Marseilles and Ottawa are currently in and is in touch with IEMA. If there is anything they can do to assist in the aftermath of the flooding, they will be there.