Woodstock Willie Predicts an Early Spring!
On Friday I joined thousands in the historic Woodstock Square for Woodstock Willie’s official prognostication, and it’s official: We’re in for an early spring!
Woodstock Willie, joined by retiring WGN weatherman Tom Skilling, did not see a shadow, which means spring is right around the corner. Woodstock Willie’s prognostication, unlike in some previous years, matches the prediction made Friday morning by Punxsutawney Phil.
Groundhog Days is a wonderful community event that honors the filming of the iconic movie “Groundhog Day,” which had many scenes filmed on our Woodstock Square. Visitors from across the state, country, and globe travel to our town to celebrate the movie and Woodstock’s community spirit.
Just a Few More Days to Participate in Valentines for Seniors
The deadline for dropping off Valentines that will be delivered to seniors living in assisted living centers and nursing homes is this Friday, February 9. We have had several Valentines dropped off, but we need more! Please, if you are able, take a few minutes and make some Valentines so you can put a smile on the face of a senior. Cards will be delivered the week of Valentine’s Day to seniors living in assisted living centers and nursing homes in the 32nd District. Let’s all make sure seniors know they are valued and that we are thinking of them!
Cards and other well-wishes can be dropped off at my Woodstock office through this Friday. The office is open from 8:30 to 4:30. There will be containers outside of the offices for off-hours drop-offs. They can also be mailed to the office. The office is located at 209 N. Benton Street right off the Woodstock Square in Woodstock.
Governor Finally Allows Co-Pays for Undocumented Healthcare
In the early summer of 2023, under pressure from the Illinois Legislature, Gov. JB Pritzker promised to implement mandatory co-pays for undocumented immigrants receiving otherwise free healthcare in Illinois. However, his Administration quickly put the plan on hold, allowing undocumented noncitizens enrolled in the program to continue to receive top-tier, free healthcare.
Now, more than three years after launching the program, and approximately eight months after first promising the co-pay requirement, the Pritzker Administration is finally moving forward on the plan, albeit with a major catch. The co-pays aren’t actually required, and providers may choose not to implement them.
The co-pays had first been proposed as part of an effort to rein in the costs of the taxpayer-funded program that were estimated to rise to well over a billion dollars per year. Now, after the months-long pause and little transparency, it will be hard to tell how much will actually be saved.
The free healthcare illegal immigrants are getting is of a higher quality than what working families can afford. Additionally, costs will only increase due to the increased influx of asylum seekers arriving in Chicago. As the majority of asylum seekers are expected to likely be denied asylum, their numbers will likely add to the growing number of undocumented immigrants receiving benefits.
Tax Filing Season Underway
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) announced that they will begin accepting 2023 tax returns on January 29, 2024. Illinois residents can file state returns for free online through the MyTax Illinois website. IDOR is expecting more than 6.2 million individual tax returns this year with 90 percent of all tax returns filed electronically last year. According to IDOR, the quickest way to receive a refund is to set up a direct deposit source at the time of your filing. April 15 will be the tax filing deadline this year.
Remember, this year is the first time Illinoisans can receive the Volunteer Emergency Worker Credit (EIC), which is designed to help offset up to $500 of the training and equipment costs for volunteer firefighters and EMTs. Additionally, taxpayers 18 years or older (with or without a qualifying child), 65 years or older (without a qualifying child), and residents with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number are eligible to claim the Illinois Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
IDOR officials say they will continue to crack down on tax fraud. In 2022, they were able to prevent $104 million worth of tax fraud through various methods. They advise that vigilance detecting scam calls, emails, and protecting your personal information are the best ways to prevent tax fraud. Taxpayers may call 1-800-732-8866 or 217-782-3336 or visit tax.illinois.gov for additional information.
Parks and Recreation Boosted by OSLAD Grants
Efforts to expand outdoor recreation are getting a big boost, courtesy of a state grant program. The Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD), now in its 37th year, is providing $54.9 million in grant funding for 111 local park projects in Illinois.
These funds are for the designated communities to buy and develop land for recreation projects. OSLAD was created by the Illinois General Assembly in 1986 to facilitate a cost-sharing partnership between state and local governments to improve parks and recreation.
OSLAD grants awarded in communities located in the 32nd Senate District include:
- Crystal Lake Park District: $329,000
- Lake Villa Public Library District: $600,000
- Lake Villa Township: $600,000
- Lindenhurst Park District: $450,000
A new bill introduced by Illinois Senate Republicans aims to prevent potentially hostile entities of the United States from buying up farmland for potentially nefarious purposes.
Senate Bill 2668 seeks to address the perceived dangers of Illinois land being sold to individuals and organizations from hostile foreign powers. This would prohibit purchases of land from countries categorized as hostile by the federal government. This bill is designed to help maintain national security while reducing the inflation of farmland prices by foreign actors.
According to the Department of Agriculture, foreign-owned farmland grew by 8 percent in 2022. Twenty-four states have similar legislation prohibiting or restricting farmland purchases by certain foreign parties. This bill would include fines up to $15,000 and punishment of up to two years of prison time for violations. This bill mandates that the Illinois Department of Agriculture creates an office of Agricultural Intelligence to monitor suspicious agricultural land purchases.
The Army Corps of Engineers is taking further steps to stop the spread of invasive carp in Illinois waterways and lakes.
The Brandon Road Interbasin Project is designed to prevent invasive carp from leaving the Illinois and Des Plaines Rivers and moving into Lake Michigan and other nearby bodies of water. The project could take six to eight years and would cost more than $1.4 billion for barricades alone. Sound blasts, an electrical barrier, a flushing lock, and a bubble wall are all different steps in the project plan.
The carp first became a problem in the 1990s when the fish were able to enter the Illinois River. Today, the Illinois River has more carp per capita than any other waterway in the world.
These fish have the potential to disrupt and obliterate the natural food chain in the Great Lakes if they make it into Lake Michigan. This would affect many related businesses in the commercial and recreational fishing economy of the Great Lakes, which totals $7 billion per year.
Illinois Once Again Led the Nation in Soybean Production
Last year, Illinois farmers raised almost 649 million bushels of soybeans, a slight decrease from the previous year, making Illinois the top soybean-producing state. However, the state fell to second in corn production last year, losing to the nearby state of Iowa.
The 43,000 soybean farmers in the state averaged 63 bushels per acre. These Illinoisans persevered through extremes like dry spells, and heavy rains to maintain the soybean production crown.