Illinois Editorial Roundup:

Here are editorials published recently in Illinois newspapers.

October 20, 2020

Chicago Sun-Times

If Latinos want a bigger say in America’s future, they most vote - in record numbers

This fall’s election marks the first time Latinos are the largest racial and ethnic minority group in the American electorate, accounting for more than 13% of all eligible voters and exceeding the number of Black eligible voters for the first time.

A record 32 million Latinos are projected to be eligible to vote, up from 27.3 million in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center. In Illinois, 11.6% of the eligible voter population is Latino — that is 1,053,000 out of a total 9,059,000.

“There is incredible power in having a large population, but it can only be flexed if you vote,” Latino Leadership Council Chair Juan Morado Jr. told the Sun-Times. “We can shift the balance of power in all levels of government, but it’s only going to be possible if we register and vote.”

An August poll from Latino Vote, the nation’s largest Latino voter registration organization, showed that less than 60% of Latino voters plan to vote, and another 12% still are undecided.

Voto Latino registered a record 1,057,090 Latino voters to-date, the most ever in its history. And although the Latino community “has been ignored by the political establishment,” President and CEO of Voto Latino Maria Teresa Kumar said their results reflect the Latino community’s deep desire to participate in this election.

In the weeks leading up to the Nov. 3 presidential election, neither Latinos nor the issues affecting them have been discussed by either nominee at debates and town halls.

It really shouldn’t be hard for candidates to loop in Latinos when discussing the issues that affect all Americans, especially during a pandemic. It’s imperative to appreciate that Latinos are not single-issue voters focused solely on immigration.

A majority of Latino registered voters say the economy, health care and the COVID-19 outbreak are very important to their vote in this presidential election, according to the Pew Research Center.

While Latinos make up 18% of the U.S. population, they account for 28.3% of COVID-19 cases and 16.4% of deaths, UnidosUS reported. Latinos account for 38.2% of cases and 36.7% of deaths among children age 5 to 17.

Latino women also have experienced a steep rise in their unemployment rate, which jumped from 5.5% to 20.5% between February and April 2020.

The surest way for Latinos to be better heard and wield more power in Washington and Springfield is for every Latino eligible voter — all 32 million strong — to head to the ballot box.

Latinos are a growing and welcome part of our nation’s future. But to have a real say in that future, they must vote.

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October 18, 2020

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

Next up on governor’s agenda

For good or ill, Illinois’ criminal-justice system is almost certain to get a major and expensive facelift over the next year or two.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently laid out a substantial proposal that addresses what he calls “seven guiding principles” sure to be embraced by his supermajorities in the House and Senate.

Although Pritzker’s proposal pays lip service to public safety, it’s clear that his principles were developed with the idea that lawbreakers are driven to criminal conduct by their life circumstances and mistreated on a widespread basis by the criminal-justice system.

In that context, it’s no surprise that the law-enforcement community reacted with alarm to Pritzker’s offerings. Authorities complained they were denied the opportunity to participate in the proposal’s development and that the governor is addressing Chicago’s problems as if they are statewide.

The Pritzker proposals stand in sharp contrast to past get-tough approaches on criminal justice. Indeed, it seems to reverse that approach, taking it much easier on lawbreakers while getting tough on law enforcement.

Pritzker’s proposals would end the cash bail system that requires many defendants to post a specific sum of money to be released from jail. Bond is set to encourage defendants to return to court. But Pritzker wants most defendants summarily released with only those posing an obvious public-safety risk kept in custody.

Critics described the governor’s plan as implementing a “revolving door” of arrests and releases.

He also proposed greater leniency in theft and drug cases, embracing a “public health approach” for mental health and addiction issues.

He suggests creating more rehabilitation programs that will allow inmates serving long sentences to be released sooner and providing housing and health care to released inmates to reduce recidivism.

As part of a crackdown on police misconduct, Pritzker has proposed statewide standards for officers that include licensing, updated standards for use of force by police and the decriminalization of what he calls “minor, nonviolent offenses.”

The American Civil Liberties Union was euphoric in its response to the governor’s proposals, saying they will help eliminate “the corrosive racial bias that has caused so much harm.”

“Our criminal legal system must be re-oriented to focus on rehabilitation and return to community, rather than lengthy sentences that do not serve communities or make our state safer,” the ACLU said.

The problem, of course, is that it’s easier to speak favorably of rehabilitation than to actually change the attitudes and behavior of those who constitute the criminal element.

As a practical matter, it would be dangerous to leap to many conclusions about the legislative changes the governor has in mind. While his intentions are obvious, not much else is.

Everyone will know more once legislators begin to turn the gleams in Pritzker’s eye into reality. One thing, however, is for certain: The governor is embarking on a groundbreaking campaign — call it the social workerization of the criminal-justice system. Success depends on troubled, sometimes dangerous, individuals making dramatically positive changes in their approach to life.

That’s always been the challenge facing the criminal-justice system, and at least to this point, it has always been extremely difficult to overcome.

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October 16, 2020

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan

Graduated tax would benefit southern Illinois

This election cycle is the most bitterly polarizing in recent memory. The life-altering impact of a global pandemic and civil unrest arising from racial injustice have magnified our divisions as a nation in unprecedented ways.

In Illinois, the question of whether to amend the state’s constitution to allow for a graduated income tax is, unfortunately, no exception. In Southern Illinois, dueling yard signs, both pro and con, tell the story in our residents’ front lawns. You can bet Biden/Harris signs adorn the same lawns as many of those “vote yes on the Fair Tax” signs, while anti-Pritzker signs are often staked along with the others.

But there is evidence showing the tax could unite some of us.

The amendment would repeal Illinois’ flat income tax of 4.95% and instead tax variable rates dependent on income. The federal income tax is graduated, as are the state income taxes of most states.

It makes little sense to split ourselves according to party lines on this issue. This past February, Southern Illinois University’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute polled 1,000 registered voters and found they favored a graduated income tax by a 2-to-1 margin, and 55% of downstate voters supported it. The institute asked a similar question the year before and ended up with similar results.

As John Jackson, a visiting professor with the Simon Institute, said of the poll results in The Southern last week, “It’s been very consistent way before all of this got going with the governor’s backing.”

Jackson, of course, is referencing Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s support of the proposal, which was a major component of his successful campaign for governor. The governor’s connection to the ballot initiative is a surefire way to ensure downstate voters are suspicious of it.

Opponents of the graduated tax argue the change in the income tax system would allow the Democratic-majority General Assembly to spend irresponsibly. The term “blank check” is a common one in opposition arguments. Opponents say the change in tax structure would open the door to taxing retirement income. They also claim higher taxes on higher income earners would drive Illinois population loss.

Tax increases at some point in the future remain a possibility, and the old adage that taxes are one of the only two sure things in life certainly applies. Taxing retirement income will remain unpopular — graduated system or no — and the amendment itself would not change whether retirement income could be taxed.

In Southern Illinois, the vast majority of taxpayers would see a decrease in their income tax bills under the amendment — or would pay the same rate we’re paying now. A great majority of our households sit below the $250,000 threshold at which rates would go up under the graduated system.

Southern Illinois would undoubtedly benefit from a graduated tax system in more ways than our tax bills. We receive more financial support from Springfield than we pay into state coffers. The wealthiest residents in northern Illinois would help to fund downstate local school districts, universities, community colleges and prisons — all of which drive downstate jobs and breathe life into our local economy.

The budget picture in Illinois isn’t pretty. We have billions in unfunded pension liabilities. We still in many ways are reeling from the two-year budget impasse — a partisan fight that saw stoppages in local services. On top of it all, the COVID-19 pandemic is walloping state budgets across the country. Illinois is no exception.

There are political problems here, no doubt. The graduated tax is not a magic wand that fixes them. We all use services that are funded by income taxes, and someone has to pay the bill. But the graduated system provides some relief for those of us who need it, and ensures those who can afford it are helping to lift us all up.

Southern Illinois only stands to gain from a graduated tax structure, and deserves the strong consideration of local voters.