We are just over a week away from Gov. JB Pritzkers annual big speech setting the budget and other priorities, and a big scramble goes on behind the scenes to get a piece of the pie.
As usual, a key question is how much schools will get. Given that it’s an election year, they’ll likely do everything right.
Another question is whether, with tax revenues coming in better than expected both here and nationally, will Pritzker follow the lead of New Yorker Kathy Hochul — like Pritzker, a Democrat — and include some form of relief for taxpayers, especially real estate owners. Even if the amount is small, it would certainly look good on the campaign trail.
The big question for the business community is whether Pritzker will allocate a significant portion of the remaining approximately $3 billion in unallocated federal COVID relief funds to fill some of the $4.5 billion hole in the federal Unemployment Insurance Trust fund to fill.
Pritzker is expected to say yes. But will it be a small number, maybe a few hundred million, or a larger number? What doesn’t come from federal funds has to be made up by employers, employees, or both, and a bad outcome could hit employers with a tax hike at a time when they’re just beginning to bounce back from the pandemic.
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Other items on the list, according to a statement from the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce late Friday: extending the expiring Edge tax credit program to attract new jobs here and introducing COVID liability protection. The board says this is really necessary at a time when it is more difficult to determine where someone has contracted the disease.
Speaking of the Chamber, she’s set to host potential mayor hopeful Arne Duncan on Wednesday for a program to curb Chicago’s rising crime rate. Duncan is now starting to do more than just dip his toe in the mayor’s waters, and what he says — and how hard-edged he gets about the performance of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration — will tell us something.
Lightfoot, who was back in town after a trip to Washington, told reporters Thursday she’s “confident we’ll see some progress,” with federal help to track weapons crossing state lines and warrants for those heavier accused of gun crimes. She has also spoken with House Speaker Chris Welch about possible amendments to Springfield’s crime legislation and indicated that she would like improvements for judges to take greater account of community safety when deciding the terms of a pre-trial release.
That’s a hot topic in an upcoming episode of the AD Q&A podcast, with Cook County Chief Executive Toni Preckwinkle arguing that the mayor’s ire shouldn’t be directed at electronic surveillance program reforms, but at arrests in unsolved cases. “This is a false narrative that somehow the county’s actions of putting people on (individual recognition) bonds and electronic surveillance are driving the violence. It’s just junk and we have research to prove it,” Preckwinkle said.
Subscribe here to get the episode when it comes out later today.
Meanwhile, Chief Cook County Circuit Court Judge Tim Evans is scheduled to offer his own perspective on crime and punishment in an “important keynote speech” at the Union League Club on Thursday.
Look for Speaker Welch to introduce bills later this week that likely deal with carjacking and organized retail theft, but not cashless borrowing.
More problems brewed for the mayor at home on Friday when Lightfoot’s choice to lead the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, Andrea Kersten, met with a buzz saw of opposition from the City Council’s Public Safety Committee. Chief among her grievances: Ella French, a Chicago police officer who was killed on the job in August, was recommended in a COPA report for disciplinary action over her actions during the raid on Anjanette Young’s home.
The meeting is adjourned without a vote on Kersten’s nomination. Watch how quickly the date comes back up in committee or if the mayor goes in a different direction.
Whatever politicians do or don’t do this week, Chicago can settle for one thing: The Green Bay Packers are out of Super Bowl competition, literally kicked out by a former bear, Robbie Gould. There is at least some justice in the world!
AD Quig contributed.
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