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Illinois Democrats push for more family tax credits in 2023 budget

Sen. Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) speaks during a press conference with other Illinois Senate...
Sen. Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) speaks during a press conference with other Illinois Senate Democrats on March 29, 2022.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 6:58 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - The spring session for Illinois lawmakers is set to end on April 8, and Democratic lawmakers are calling for more tax cuts to help Illinois families. Some hope to see an expansion of the state earned income tax credit and the creation of a child tax credit.

Many Illinoisans are still struggling financially due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Sponsors say 4.8 million people could benefit from an earned income tax credit. 3.6 million people currently receive that credit from Illinois.

Illinois Senate Democrats argue an expansion could help low-income young adults, anyone over 65, and undocumented immigrants. They claim Illinois has the eighth-most regressive tax system in the country and the effects of the pandemic continue to weigh on families.

This plan could generate $1 billion for local economies by putting money in the hands of low-income workers. Sponsor Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) called it a “hero tax credit” as many of the people eligible are hard workers who never had a choice to stay home during the pandemic.

“It goes back to those heroes so that they can then spend that money in any way they choose. That is the American way,” Aquino said. “We give you back your money. You get to spend it as you need.”

Another proposal could create a state child tax credit of at least $600 for eligible families with dependents under 17. Many people recently benefited from a similar federal child tax credit. However, that program ended on December 31.

“There are folks out there that are deciding do I go to work full time or not because child care costs so much money it actually saves me money by staying at home. We don’t want that,” said Sen. Omar Aquino (D-Chicago). “We want people who are able to work to go out there and do that.”

Separate legislation could help more working-class families get subsidized child care. This bill could allow a family of four making nearly $70,000, rather than the current ceiling of $55,000, eligible for the benefit.

“We’ll be able to see the impact in every single county, which is inclusive of counties that are represented by Republicans as well as Democrats,” said Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “So, it is a very common-sense approach to being able to think about how do we wrap around the entire diversity of our families across the state.”

Senate Bill 3993 could also allocate $8 million into the Illinois Treasurer’s higher education savings account. Pacione-Zayas said it could provide a $50 seed deposit into a 529 college savings plan, or qualified tuition plan, for every child born after January 1, 2023. Families would be able to claim that money by a child’s tenth birthday.

Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) said lawmakers should also consider more funding for early intervention services. Illinois appropriated over $115 million towards those services in the FY 2021 budget, although funding dropped to $108 million in FY 2022. Gov. JB Pritzker’s budget proposal would keep the investment at $108 million, but Lightford argues lawmakers should increase that amount by 10%.

“In the child care services line, I recognize the governor has put an additional $300 million there. I have not been able to tally if that’s a 10% increase above the fiscal year, but that’s what Senate Bill 3810 is asking for,” Lightford said. “In the childhood education space, the governor has done a significant job here proposing that 10% increase that we were hoping for.”

While Lightford commended the governor for his current proposals in the budget, she hopes he’ll work with legislative leaders to include the remaining 10% boosts in Senate Bill 3810.

Sponsors say all of these proposals should have bipartisan support when negotiators finalize the budget.

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