Week in Review: SAFE-T Act, crop report, test scores & more


Democrats’ SAFE-T Act will raise property taxes in Illinois. New concerns are being raised about the Safe-T Act and the financial costs associated with the law.

Republicans are saying those costs could lead to an increase in property taxes.

At the heart of the matter, Republicans said it is the unfunded mandates associated with the law. Costs that local police departments and courts will incur because of the law which could then fall on taxpayers.

Critics of the Safe-T Act launched a new attack on the law, which among other things eliminates cash bail starting January 1st.

"This legislation doesn't just make our communities less safe," said State Rep. Chris Bos (R) Lake Zurich. "It is ultimately going to make them more expensive."

Republicans contend that counties will have to raise property taxes to pay for some of the requirements of the law including police body cameras and the systems to store the video. They also said it will require additional personnel in the courts, sheriff's departments and pretrial services.

DuPage County estimates that over five years, the Safe-T Act will cost $63 million to implement.

"JB Pritzker and the legislative Democrats have now proven the following phrase: crime does pay to the detriment of taxpayers and law-abiding citizens," said Jim Durkin, House Republican Leader.

Kane County officials are discussing its first property tax hike in a decade to fill a $3 million deficit they say are created by unfunded mandated reforms in the SAFE-T Act.

During a news conference Wednesday, state Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, said changes have to be made to the law.

“This is not the time to add to our highest in the nation overall tax burden,” Wheeler said. “The Democratic-majority SAFE-T Act is literally forcing our local governments to consider raising property taxes to make our communities less safe.”

House Republicans target fentanyl dealers to counter decriminalization push. Republican lawmakers who say they are fed up with Democratic efforts to lessen the penalties for drug dealers in Illinois have introduced new legislation.

Last April, the House narrowly passed a measure that lowered the criminal penalties for what they call low-level possession of drugs like fentanyl and heroin. Misdemeanors under the bill include possession of less than five grams of cocaine, less than five pills of most scheduled III substances such as Xanax and Valium, and less than 40 pills of oxycodone and similar painkillers. […]

Republicans have introduced legislation designed to allow state attorneys to prosecute fentanyl dealers.

“If you are going out of your way to put fentanyl into other drugs, putting it into vitamins, putting it in something that looks like candy, putting into something that is rainbow colored, you clearly have an intent to distribute, to target, to harm,” said state Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst.

Fentanyl is implicated in a pattern of undercounted Cook County opioid deaths. Public health researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) say that the current official count of Cook County opioid overdose deaths is smaller than the reality by up to 15%. In Cook County, this means that at least 633 deaths that took place over a four-year period, starting in 2016 and continuing through 2019, could be reclassified as drug deaths. The UIC study pointed to the role of fentanyl in creating these overdose deaths.

First Illinois crop report of October 2022 shows harvest is underway. The crop report, generated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDOA), is based on agricultural conditions from all regions of Illinois. It concentrates on conditions as of Sunday, October 2, in the fields used to grow corn and soybeans.

Most of the fields used to grow Illinois’ top two cash crops were in good to excellent condition as the harvest season got underway. Corn was 69% good-to-excellent, and beans were 67% good-to-excellent. Thirteen percent of Illinois’ field corn had been harvested as of the first weekend in October, and harvest machinery had taken up 10% of Illinois’ soybeans. Comparatively dry soil conditions were continuing to create good harvest machinery conditions.

September 2022 CGFA revenue report. The report on Illinois income tax, sales tax, and other tax revenues in the third month of FY23 comes from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA). The report points to inflation, exacerbated by a tight labor market, as continuing factors in the growing challenges facing the economy of Illinois. With inflation lowering the value of cash on deposit in financial institutions, interest rates continue to increase. Short-term interest rates are now at the highest levels since just before the financial crash of 2008-09. Rates charged by lenders for mortgages, credit cards, and other forms of consumer debt are increasing in line with this overall trend.

The State of Illinois continues to enjoy tax receipt trends that are based upon these overall nationwide and worldwide factors. With labor in short supply, pay rates and State income tax collections are increasing, further driving up consumer prices. On a year-over-year basis, Illinois personal and corporate income tax collections increased by $361 million in September 2022. Many consumers are rushing to stores to buy things before prices go up further, and sales tax collections were up $51 million in September 2022 as compared with the year-earlier period. The overall increase of $412 million from these two sources, income taxes and sales taxes, accounted for all of the overall changes in Illinois’ general funds revenue picture during the recently-concluded 30-day period. Other changes to collections and outflows in excise taxes, federal funds movements, and tax refunds and revenue sharing also took place, but did not add any net new money for the State.

With global interest rates rising, changes in Illinois employment and income tax collections are highly possible. The State’s tax revenue picture could worsen at any time. The CGFA September 2022 report was released on Tuesday, October 4.

Wall Street Journal and Wirepoints detail failing test scores in Illinois public schools. The Wirepoints report, based upon published data from standardized tests performed in Illinois in 2019, indicates that many young children in Illinois public schools have not been taught to read at appropriate age levels. Massive experience, validated in many school settings among many different groups of children, shows that if children do not learn how to read at an age where their brain is fitted to become excited about new things, many of them will not make up the lost ground later. The Wirepoints report concentrates on Illinois third graders, children age 8 to 9, and counts how many of them could read in 2019 at a grade level that is appropriate for that age.

The report found that only 36% of the tested Illinois third-graders could read words and grasp reading concepts at a level appropriate for that age group. Illinois third-graders’ ability to complete simple math quizzes – a skill that depends on reading ability – showed similar numbers.

In addition to statewide numbers, the Wirepoints analysts performed a case-study deep dive into numbers from Decatur School District 61, a large downstate school district that serves a diverse student population. The case study indicates that few of the young students in this traditionally industrial city are learning how to take in information in a way that will allow them to be successful later in life. Only 9% of Decatur’s third grade students could demonstrate grade-level reading ability on a 2019 battery of standardized tests.

In an editorial, “Illinois’s Shocking Report Card,” published on October 4, the Wall Street Journal stated that “The Land of Lincoln is failing its children and covering it up.”

Tyson Foods joins list of companies moving jobs out of Illinois. The relocation announcement affects Tyson employees in downtown Chicago and Downers Grove, Illinois. In August 2021 Tyson had 1,100 employees in the Chicago area; this move will affect about 500 office-based personnel. The move will be completed in early 2023.

Tyson Foods said that all of its Chicago-based office employees will be offered relocation positions at the company’s northwest Arkansas headquarters, where the current CEO seeks to consolidate the firm’s management operations. Tyson’s move to the U.S. South follows decisions by formerly Chicago-based Boeing to move its headquarters to Virginia; formerly Chicago-based Citadel Group to move its headquarters to Florida; and formerly Peoria/Chicago-based Caterpillar to move its headquarters to Texas. All of these moves were announced in calendar year 2022. The Tyson Foods announcement was made on Wednesday, October 5.

Illinois Office of Tourism sets up Fall Colors Trip Planner. The webpage will provide guidance on the zones of peak color and driving experience throughout Illinois in October 2022. Climate conditions mean that different zones within Illinois will achieve peak colors at different times, with the peak not coming to southern Illinois until the final week of October. A fall travel guide maps out trips to pumpkin farms and haunted locations throughout Illinois.