Senate Week in Review: March 18-22, 2024

New Legislation Aimed at Helping Struggling Families

SPRINGFIELD – New financial help could soon be available for Illinois parents thanks to two legislative measures designed to provide financial relief to families with children enrolled in daycare and pre-K programs.

State Senators Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) and Sue Rezin (R-Morris) have filed legislation to enact new state tax credits to help offset some of the costs that parents incur for both preschool and childcare. The two Senators explained their bills at a State Capitol press conference March 21.

“Families throughout Illinois are finding it difficult to make ends meet as high inflation and other economic pressures impact their bottom line. Republican Senators have long been advocates for different plans to lessen the tax burden on Illinoisans,” Sen. Tracy said. “Today, we are renewing our call to provide much-needed relief for Illinoisans who are struggling to keep up with the state’s high cost of living.”

Sen. Tracy is sponsoring Senate Bill 3104, which would give parents a state tax credit for each qualifying child on their income taxes to help provide financial relief for those paying for childcare services. Under the proposal, qualifying families would receive a state tax credit equal to 25 percent of the current federal childcare tax credit for each child.

Sen. Rezin’s Senate Bill 2717 would allow parents or guardians of one or more children between the ages of 3 and 5 who attend an eligible preschool program in Illinois to qualify for a tax credit equal to 100 percent of the expenses they incur to send their children to that preschool program, up to $1,500 per child.

“Any parent or guardian of a young child will tell you that one of the greatest financial hardships that growing families face is the lack of access to affordable, high-quality preschool and childcare,” said Sen. Rezin. “It is time for our state to ease some of that financial burden that has fallen upon parents and ensure that every child has a chance to access much-needed preschool education.”

Sen. Tracy says Senate Republicans hope to see bipartisan progress on these critical issues that are important to support growing families and help provide children and their parents with the best opportunities possible.

Two Correctional Facilities Closing

The Governor recently announced his plan to close and rebuild Stateville Correctional Center in Will County and Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, leaving many unanswered questions about what will happen to the current employees, inmates, and the local communities.

In February, the Governor proposed $900 million for maintenance and modernization of Department of Corrections facilities within his proposed Fiscal Year 2025 budget. In the joint prison closure announcement from the Governor and the Illinois Department of Corrections, it became clear that the money was meant to be used to demolish and rebuild Logan and Stateville.

Currently, the Governor is planning to rebuild Stateville at the same location as the current facility, but his Administration has released no details or commitments on the location of the new Logan Correctional Center.

Sen. Tracy says lawmakers are expressing concerns about what would happen to the more than 500 direct jobs, hundreds more indirect jobs, and economic benefits that Logan Correctional Center provides. While they recognize a need for repairs, they rightly point out that the facilities’ current state of disrepair exists because of administrative neglect and misplaced priorities.

Meanwhile, the local union representing the two facilities came out against the plan citing fears that even temporary closures of the centers would “disrupt and potentially destabilize the prison system, while bringing upheaval to the lives of affected employees and individuals in custody.”

In accordance with the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability process, construction of new facilities will not commence until all requirements of the State Facilities Closure Act are met. More information about that process, including a timeline, can be found here.

Illinois Could Switch to ACT Next School Year

The state’s contract with the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) will expire in June, which has created a question on which federally required standardized accountability assessment exam Illinois high school students will take next year.

The Illinois State Board of Education announced earlier this month that it had awarded the American College Testing (ACT) with a $53 million contract for a three-year commitment. Students can still take the SAT after this year but will be required to pay for it themselves.

The SAT has been in use in the state since 2016, but the ACT was the state test for the 15 years prior to that.

Jil Tracy

Want to stay up to date with your Senator?

Sign up for the District E-Newsletter below: