Study: Low-Income Illinoisans Hit Hard Under State's Tax System

Low-income Illinoisans have the third-highest state and local tax burden in the nation, according to a new study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and the Fiscal Policy Center at Voices for Illinois Children.

The study, which examined the distribution of all major state and local taxes by income group in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, showed that the poorest Illinois residents currently pay almost three times more in taxes as a percent of their income compared to the richest Illinoisans.

Illinois' effective tax rates by income group are 13.2 percent for those in the bottom 20 percent of the income scale, 10.8 percent for the middle 20 percent and 4.6 percent for the top 1 percent, according to the study.

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Chicago's 46th Ward Aldermanic Candidates Discuss Campaign Priorities (VIDEO)

Aldermanic candidates for the 46th Ward, including incumbent Ald. James Cappleman, debated Thursday night in the Uptown neighborhood and discussed their platforms for the Feb. 24 municipal election.

Those challenging Cappleman, who was first elected alderman of the North Side ward in 2011, include attorney Amy Crawford and Denice Davis, former chief of staff to Ald. Helen Shiller, who served as alderman of the 46th Ward from 1987 to 2001.

The forum, which was hosted by the Buena Park Neighbors Association, saw attendance from nearly 100 people at the Hollywood Club. The ward includes portions of the Uptown, Buena Park and Lake View neighborhoods.

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Advocates Urge Rauner, Illinois Legislature To Prioritize Mental Health Funding

As the Democrat-controlled Illinois legislature and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner gear up to tackle the state's fiscal problems, including a multi-billion budget deficit, mental health advocates are warning against further cuts to community-based services.

"Community mental health services have been cut to the core, and we're seeing a lot of the fallout," said Heather O'Donnell, vice president of public policy and advocacy for Chicago-based Thresholds, a recovery service provider for people with mental illness in Illinois.

Among other issues, O'Donnell noted that the Cook County Jail has about 2,000 inmates with some form of mental illness. And 22,000 people with mental illness in the state are living in nursing homes even though they "don't need that level of care." These people, she explained, would likely be homeless if they were not living in such facilities due to the lack of housing and other supports for them to live independently.

"We just need to make sure that we preserve every dollar, because we don't have anything else in the community mental health system that we can cut without costing the state far more than the cuts," O'Donnell stressed.

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Environmental Concerns Swirl Around Mission Hills Development Plan, Opponents Urge Cook Co. Board To Delay Vote (UPDATED)

Residents of Mission Hills Country Club Village in unincorporated Northbrook want Cook County commissioners to delay a vote on a new housing development proposed for their community.

Northbrook-based Red Seal Development wants to build a 137-unit housing development that includes town homes, duplexes and single-family homes on about 44 acres of land at Mission Hills, a complex that currently features 781 condominiums and town homes as well as a separately-owned, 18-hole golf course.

Red Seal is seeking approval from the Cook County Board for zoning changes that would pave the way for the project, which would involve building on half of the existing golf course.

The Cook County Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) voted unanimously to advance Red Seal's proposal back in December. As a result, the Cook County Board's Zoning and Building Committee is slated to consider the project at its meeting on Wednesday morning. If the committee approves the project, it could go before the full Cook County Board for consideration later in the day.

Mission Hills Openlands, a group of residents leading the effort against the proposed development, claims the project would threaten the environment and property values in the community and lead to more flooding problems, among other concerns.

"What they're doing is an environmental travesty," stressed Mission Hills Openlands founder Karen Jump. "They would be clear cutting about 500 trees and taking 44 acres of open lands and putting it under asphalt and concrete. And we're in a very short distance to the Des Plaines River, and there's flooding all around us."

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Durbin, Gutierrez Slam 'Hateful' Republican Legislation To Rollback Immigration Programs (VIDEO)

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL,4) decried legislation passed in the GOP-led House this week that would block President Barack Obama's recent executive actions on immigration and end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Speaking at a Friday morning press conference in Chicago, the two lawmakers also shamed Republicans for "instilling fear" in people who are getting ready to apply for administrative relief under the president's immigration orders signed in November.

On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled House approved a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill including amendments that would reverse Obama's immigration plan and defund the DACA program, which grants a two-year protection against deportation for immigrants who came to the United States as young children.

"On the floor of the United States House of Representatives, they passed what I would consider to be one of the most hateful measures in modern congressional history," Durbin said at Erie Neighborhood House, 1347 W. Erie St. "What they said was this: If you are a person who benefits from DACA ... you will not be able to renew your DACA status. Nor if you didn't apply in the past can you file for the first time for DACA. Well how many people will be affected by that Republican amendment? We estimate 2 million young people in America eligible to sign up for DACA. Six-hundred thousand have already signed up for DACA, 30,000 in the state of Illinois."

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