A new year could mean big changes for the state of Illinois.
Illinois’ population decline continues to be a cause for concern as Illinois entered a new decade with nearly 160,000 fewer residents. Also this week, the state’s Comptroller announced that her office will no longer help cities collect fines for red-light camera violations.
In other news, the first phase of Illinois’ contentious minimum wage increase took effect Jan. 1 and recreational marijuana hit the market as the New Year began. And the Office of the State Fire Marshal is reminding Illinoisans of the dangers of winter heating equipment.
New year, new address?
Illinois entered the new decade with nearly 160,000 fewer residents than in previous years, underscoring the need for lawmakers to address the continued outmigration.
According to newly released census data, Illinois ended 2019 with the largest population loss in the country. Despite being one of the most populous states in the nation, Illinois has continuously declined in population over the years.
Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) argues that Illinois’ disproportionately high property tax burden and unfriendly business climate only drive out residents and job creators.
As lawmakers turn to the start of a new spring session calendar, Illinois’ mass exodus highlights the need for change, and Senate Republicans are committed to working toward real reforms that will help boost Illinois’ economy and protect taxpayers.
Comptroller pumps brakes on red-light camera debt
In the midst of ethical probes into the Illinois Statehouse, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza recently announced that her office will no longer assist municipalities in collecting fines for violations caught by red-light cameras.
The red-light camera industry and contracts with local municipalities and political officials have recently come under scrutiny as federal investigations continue.
In 2012, the General Assembly authorized municipalities and other local governments to use the Office of the Comptroller to help collect debts resulting from unpaid traffic tickets. Outstanding debts were collected from violators by withholding state income tax refunds or other payments. According to the Comptroller, this method of collection has been used to recover unpaid child support, overpayment of benefits, and other types of debt.
The Comptroller’s assistance with unpaid traffic tickets from red-light cameras will come to an end on Feb. 6, 2020.
Senate Republicans anticipate red-light cameras being a topic of discussion during the spring legislative session. Legislation has been filed to analyze the use of the cameras and to ban red-light cameras.
Tax credit offered to small businesses in the wake of minimum wage hike
The start of the New Year brought about the beginning of Illinois’ controversial minimum wage hike. Effective Jan. 1, Illinois’ minimum wage increased from $8.25 per hour to $9.25 per hour, putting additional cost burdens on small-business owners across the state. Wages will continue to increase incrementally to $15 per hour by 2025.
To help offset increased costs to the state’s business community, Illinois Senate Republicans are encouraging small businesses to take advantage of a tax credit available to businesses and nonprofits with 50 full-time equivalent employees or fewer.
The Minimum Wage Credit will allow small businesses a maximum credit of 25 percent of the difference between the new minimum wage and what each employee was paid previously. The percentage allowed each proceeding year will decrease before it sunsets in 2026. Businesses can begin to claim the credit on their quarterly Illinois Withholding Income Tax Returns.
Senate Republicans recognize that while this is not a long-term solution for small businesses, it will provide a measure of relief to employers as they face the hardships imposed by the minimum wage increase.
For more information on the Minimum Wage Credit and how to calculate this credit, visit tax.illinois.gov.
Stay safe as you keep warm this winter
As temperatures drop, the Office of the State Fire Marshal encourages residents to have their furnaces checked and to make sure carbon monoxide and smoke detectors are working properly.
Heating equipment is a leading cause of fires in U.S. homes, which accounted for 15 percent of all reported home fires in 2012-2016 and 19 percent of home fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Furthermore, failing or unmaintained heating equipment can also lead to accidental carbon monoxide fatalities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is found in fumes produced when you burn fuel in places such as fireplaces and furnaces.
"Carbon monoxide fatalities rise during the winter months, and these alarms, when working, will give you a warning and let you know to leave your home when levels are too high. Never use a gas generator, grill, oven or range to heat the inside of your home," states Illinois State Fire Marshal Matt Perez.
To help keep your home safe this winter, consider these winter heating safety tips provided by the Office of the State Fire Marshal:
- Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional; change furnace filters frequently. • Have a qualified professional to install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters, or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturers' instructions.
• Keep interior and exterior air vents clear of blockages or obstructions.
• Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like a furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
• Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before being placed into a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
• Create a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.
• Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms at least once a month and be familiar with the sounds they make.
• Never use an oven or range to heat your home.
• Remember to turn off portable or space heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
• Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors on each floor of your home and within 15 feet of each sleeping area.
• Carbon monoxide detectors have a limited life span, so check the manufacturer’s instructions for information on replacement.