Pritzker budget proposal: Tax break on gasoline, groceries; funds to protect crime witnesses
CHICAGO - Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s proposed 2023 budget includes, for the first time, state funds to protect crime witnesses.
Chicagoans are all too familiar with tragedies like that of Treja Kelly. The pregnant 18-year was struck by 17 bullets and murdered in 2019, just days after her trial testimony helped convict a gang killer.
Dozens of documented case like that leave very few crime witnesses willing to testify.
In the vast majority of shootings and killings, Chicago Police are never able to arrest anyone.
"If we want to reduce crime," Pritzker said as he presented his spending plan, "we have to solve crimes."
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Pritzker proposed $20 million in state aid that local officials could use to protect crime witnesses and their families. Just last week, the chief judge of Cook County’s circuit court called for "robust witness protection."
But in Chicago alone, where thousands of recent murders remain unsolved, a truly effective program could end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars.
Republican lawmakers signaled the election year debate to come.
"While the governor says he's going to give money for a program to help hide witnesses, that's fantastic. But at the same time, last year in January — 4:30 in the morning — a bill was passed that takes away the ability of law enforcement to detain people in jail on pre-trial detention for the offense of witness intimidation," said state Sen. Steve McClure (R-Springfield).
Republicans are campaigning on a promise to repeal that law and others enacted in a package of criminal justice reforms sponsored by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus.
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The governor’s proposed 2023 state budget also would use a billion dollars in federal COVID-19 relief money for temporary tax and fee cuts that Republicans demand he make permanent. They affect groceries and gasoline; liquor license fees, bars and restaurants pay; and licensure fees for nurses and other frontline health professionals.
"Let's recognize the burden our health care workers have borne," the governor said.
The budget now goes to the Illinois House and Senate, which plan to complete work and adjourn by the end of April.