QUINCY — State Sen. Jil Tracy expects little action from the Illinois General Assembly during its veto session starting next month.
In an legislative update at her annual Leadership Lunch Monday at the Quincy Holiday Inn, Tracy, R-Quincy, said Gov. J.B. Pritzker has rolled out a renewable energy plan and justice reform policies that could be brought up, though there are several other “time sensitive” bills that should be addressed, including a plan to delay the minimum wage hikes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We would put that on hold because of so much unemployment and businesses struggling to keep people employed,” she said. “We thought it had merit, but it did not in the end get stalled. We saw the increase in July.”
The minimum wage climbed to $9.25 per hour on Jan. 1, and $10 per hour on July 1, with it climbing to $11 in 2021. The minimum wage is set to climb to $15 per hour by 2025.
Tracy said she saw hearings on criminal justice reforms and sits on a green energy plans working group and doesn’t know if lawmakers would move forward on legislation with only six days in session.
“What I thought initially was we wouldn’t see any energy bills moving because of the cloud of ComEd and the federal investigation and court case,” she said.
Tracy warned that any criminal justice reform bills should be vetted thoroughly. Pritzker’s proposal included a call to end cash bail and limiting pretrial detention to those who pose a threat to public safety, using a public health approach to address mental health and addiction, prioritizing rehabilitation and reduce the risk of recidivism, increase police accountability and transparency and update standards for use of force by police.
“I hope we can find a happy medium of how you make judicial reform and still keep our public safe,” she said.
Tracy panned the so-called “Fair Tax” constitutional amendment that would establish a graduated income tax in Illinois. Voters will consider the change next month.
“I’ve seen two flat tax increases since I’ve been in the House and in the Senate, and it still wasn’t enough money,” she said. “It was going to solve our problems. It was going to straighten out our pensions. It was going to straighten out our budget, and it didn’t. We didn’t gain one bit on those items.”
If the amendment is approved by voters, Tracy added it would make it easier for lawmakers to tweak tax rates.
“It’s never going to be enough until they get a rein on how they spend money,” she said.
Tracy noted that state revenues have fallen because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the budget lawmakers approved during session at the end of May relied heavily on federal money that hasn’t materialized..
“Let’s face it. Our economy needs to get back on track,” she said. “It’s a very frightening time with this pandemic. It’s a highly contagious disease, but at some point, we have to get Illinois working again.”
Featured speaker at the luncheon was U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville.
Davis was optimistic that after improvements the LaGrange Lock and Dam on the Illinois River that President Donald Trump would support funding to modernize the lock and dam system on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, including Lock and Dam 21 in Quincy.
“I spent four years working with the previous administration, and they invested zero dollars in our entire lock and dam system along the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers,” Davis said. “That to me was a failure of epic proportions, and we’re going to continue to try and fix it.”
Davis also said that Paycheck Protection Program created helped businesses survive, but there is more than $100 billion left that small businesses can’t access because the application period expired.
“We didn’t think the pandemic would last this long,” he said. “Now, we’ve got to open that back up, so we can have another round. I think at that point in time is a good time to start talking about how do we give expedited forgiveness for $150,000 or less. That’s something that should have bipartisan support.”