Tallying wins, losses as budget dust settles in Springfield: The Forecast, by Greg Hinz

https://ift.tt/s2trOeP

springfield

After the gold rush: Democrats are doing a victory dance. Republicans are vowing to take Democratic shortcomings to voters. And Illinois’ business community is breathing a sigh of relief that it got something, if only a half a loaf.

That’s the story out of Springfield as lawmakers and voters alike begin to assess exactly what was accomplished in a spring session that adjourned around 6 a.m. on Saturday.

There are also some developments in the race for mayor, but first Springfield.

The top line is that the state got a budget, a budget that’s said to be balanced and will result in at least small rebate checks to 97% of residents, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker. It also is getting a variety of other, mostly short-term tax relief tilted toward low-income voters.

The question is whether the combination of breaks on shopping, gasoline and property taxes, in a deal reached on Friday, is truly affordable.

Democrats say it is, and underline they also put $1 billion into the state’s rainy day cash fund and another $200 million into cash-short state pension funds. Republicans couldn’t do much about it and some actually voted for the tax relief, but they aren’t happy.

irvin wttw

“J.B. Pritzker pushed election year gimmicks that don’t reverse his anti-police, pro-criminal policies but do set up his campaign to permanently raise taxes after the election,” snapped GOP gubernatorial hopeful Richard Irvin in a statement. “The people of Illinois are paying a steep price for a governor who will do anything to win re-election, even if it means mailing checks to voters right before hitting them with the largest income tax hike in state history.”

The line on crime: The crime mention is a reference to what the Democratic-dominated Legislature did—and didn’t do—about rising criminal violence. And that’s where the business community comes in.

Officially, business groups say they’re happy. Unofficially, the bill designed to respond to the smash-and-grab retail theft wave is only a piece of what they’d hoped for.

smash and grab

The bill does create a new crime of organized retail theft aimed at groups of thieves that have descended on stores along North Michigan Avenue and top suburban malls. Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who lobbied very hard for the bill, will get to impanel a statewide grand jury to deal with such offenses, get a fund to help locals address the problem, and be able to assist local state’s attorneys to be more active in things such as cracking down on websites that sell stolen goods.

But hopes to define such crimes as racketeering, which carries heavy penalties, fell short. Only those who organize such raids will be subject to the new law; the Black Caucus didn’t want to subject, say, teenagers swiping a pair of tennis shoes to heavier penalties. And thefts of property worth less than $300 will continue to be a misdemeanor, not a felony.

The story was somewhat similar on carjacking, another area Democrats had singled out for special treatment. Anyone who coerces someone under 18 to jack a car can be hit with a new felony charge. But even to get that passed, the Legislature added millions of dollars in new violence prevention programs to steer youth toward sports programs, summer jobs and the like and away from organized looting.

Lawmakers also agreed to spend tens of millions of dollars more on police, for training, equipment, mental health and retention programs. But penalties almost always were left untouched. The Legislature didn’t do anything close to what New York’s Legislature did last week at the prompting of Gov. Kathy Hochul when it partially repealed its laws sharply limiting cash bail.

Expect Republicans to hit that subject hard this fall.

Unemployment update: Business groups also got a half loaf on shoring up the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund, which is still around $1.7 billion in the hole. A trigger which automatically would have raised taxes on business and cut benefits for laid-off workers was delayed for six months. That will give all sides more time to talk, but in the meantime millions of dollars in extra interest on the debt to the federal Treasury will accrue.

mayoral contenders

Quigley, Lightfoot, Wilson and Lopez

On the mayoral front: We’ll find out later today whether businessman Willie Wilson is running again, joining a race already populated by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, of course, but by 15th Ward Alderman Ray Lopez. But it will be next week at the earliest before U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley announces his move. Quigley did form a mayoral campaign fund, but says he did so only to report how he paid for his exploratory poll, the results of which have not yet been disclosed.

A former mayor, Harold Washington, will get special honors later this week to commemorate the 100th birthday of the city’s first African-American mayor.

Finally, at the Cook County Board, it looks like a move is on to give members a pay raise, with the filing of pay-hike legislation. More on that later. 

via Crain’s Chicago Business

April 11, 2022 at 09:08AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s