Illinois Senate Democrats introduce $1.8 billion tax relief plan

Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago) and other Senate Democrats speak during a press conference in...
Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago) and other Senate Democrats speak during a press conference in Springfield on April 1, 2022.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 9:10 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - As Illinois state lawmakers head into their final week of the spring session, Senate Democrats have introduced a plan to help Illinoisans with $1.8 billion in tax relief.

Sponsors say this plan could use some of the state’s extra revenue this year to give a one-time tax refund to 97% of Illinois taxpayers. Individual filers could receive $100 and joint filers would get back $200 with $50 for up to three dependents.

The tax refund would only go to individual filers making $250,000 or less. The larger checks could be sent to joint filers making up $500,000 or less. Sponsors expect the refunds to be in the mail by late summer or early fall.

The Democrats included a suspension of the state’s 1% grocery sales tax for six months. They also hope to suspend the state’s portion of the next gas tax increase for six months to address the high gas prices.

“They’ve invested in us and now we’re investing in them by paying it forward and making sure that they have the ability to help themselves and help families,” said Sen. Elgie Sims (D-Chicago).

Several of these ideas were included in Gov. JB Pritzker’s budget proposal. This plan includes an opportunity for homeowners to have 5% of their property tax paid with a check of up to $300.

Sen. Ann Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights) says this will provide direct relief to homeowners who continue to struggle during the pandemic.

The Illinois Comptroller and Treasurer’s offices would be tasked with putting $500 million from the General Revenue Fund into a property tax rebate fund. Gillespie’s portion of the bill also states the Department of Revenue should pay a one-time rebate to every individual taxpayer who files their Illinois income tax return for 2021 with the department on or before October 17, 2022.

The Department of Revenue would start certifying the names of taxpayers eligible for the one-time rebate on July 5, 2022. Any unused money in the property tax rebate fund by July 1, 2023, would return to the state’s General Revenue Fund. Gillespie’s language also calls for emergency rulemaking to allow the Department of Revenue to act quickly to implement the proposal.

Senate Democrats also want a sales tax holiday on school supplies and clothing this summer. That portion of the bill calls for a sales tax freeze on qualifying clothing and footwear with a retail price of $125 or less from August 5 to August 14. Sen. Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park) notes that school supplies can pass the $125 threshold.

Other provisions give teachers a $250 tax credit for school supplies and a $500 tax credit for volunteer first responders.

“There are heroes in every community of our state who risk their safety every day as volunteer firefighters and emergency medical service personnel. They are taken away from their families to keep people safe with little in return,” said Sen. Christopher Belt (D-Belleville). “That’s why it’s clear an initiative to get more people to join our volunteer fire departments and encourage more long-term volunteers is vital.”

People could receive the tax credit of up to $500 for a year where they served at least nine months as a volunteer first responder.

The legislation also includes an expansion of the state’s earned income tax credit for young adults, anyone 65 and older, and undocumented immigrants or others with an individual taxpayer identification number. Sen. Omar Aquino also pushed to have the state’s EIC increase from 18% to 19% for taxable years after January 1, 2023.

Aquino is one of several lawmakers fighting for more low-income Illinoisans to get access to the earned income tax credit. While that plan was included in this legislation, the creation of a child tax credit was left out, although Aquino explained that families could still have extra money coming in through the one-time refunds.

“This is a proposal that we want to get out there so that we can get to the table and talk to the governor and his folks and also there’s another side of the building as well that has to be a part of this conversation,” Aquino said. “But the Senate Democrats are putting our proposal on the table and wanting to support families throughout the entire state.”

The Pritzker administration looks forward to reviewing the proposal. Press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh stated that conversations with lawmakers in both chambers have been productive.

“We will continue to focus on delivering fiscally responsible relief for working families,” Abudayyeh said.

The plan was quickly met with a critical response by Senate Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) called the proposal another election year stunt.

“Under their plan, checks and relief will arrive right before the election and then will expire right after the election,” McConchie stated. “This is not the real reform the people of this state want and need, and Illinoisans will see right through this disingenuous gimmick.”

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