Mask mandates on transit lifted; Illinois tops in property taxes

Illinois’ transit mask mandates lifted

Last week a federal judge struck down the federal mask mandate on airplanes. The judge who made the ruling did not say anything either way about Illinois’ mask mandate on trains and buses, but perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, Illinois authorities have decided to lift the mandate here before it can be struck down. Illinois’ mandate applied to public transportation as well as transit stations, airports and taxi cabs. Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft announced after the ruling that they were changing their policies to make masks optional.

Masks are still required in health care settings, and local governments retain the right to require masks if they so choose. COVID cases have been on a slight increase in recent weeks, though nowhere near the peaks we saw earlier this year. Most of Illinois’ mask mandates were lifted on February 28.

I am glad to see these mandates going away, but I continue to believe that they should never have been imposed by executive order on a statewide level in the first place. This should have been done collaboratively and at the local level.

Illinois reclaims title of having nation’s highest property taxes

For the last several years Illinois and New Jersey have vied for dubious “honor” of having the highest property taxes in the country. Each state has a population which has been increasingly re-locating to states with lower taxes and friendlier job climates. This year, according to a study from the real-estate data company ATTOM, Illinois has once again claimed the top spot for the highest property taxes in the country.

ATTOM figured the rates in each state by “taking the average annual property tax as a percentage of the ‘average estimated market value of homes in each geographic area’” and came up with an effective property tax rate of 1.86% for Illinois, putting us ahead of New Jersey’s rate of 1.73%. Others in the top five were Connecticut, Vermont and Pennsylvania. The five lowest rates were in Hawaii, Alabama, Utah, Arizona and Nevada.

Once again this spring the Illinois General Assembly failed to enact any kind of permanent property tax relief or reform, meaning that we will likely continue to be among the worst states in the country for property tax burdens.

Road construction season well underway – drive with caution!

We’ve all seen those orange construction barrels out on our area roadways this spring as road construction season swings into high gear. Please remember to obey the reduced speed limits in work zones and change lanes to stay clear of workers. Fines for speeding or other unsafe driving are higher in work zones.

To help drivers know where roads are being worked on – so that they can allow extra time and avoid the temptation to speed – the Illinois Department of Transportation has a map of highway work zones. You can find that regularly-updated information and other work zone safety tips here.

Proposed Constitutional amendment sent to the people

Amending the Illinois Constitution requires not just the consent of the House and Senate, but also the approval of the people of Illinois. A proposed amendment must receive a three-fifths vote in both the House and the Senate, and then must be approved by either three-fifths of those voting on the amendment in the next general election or a majority of the total number of those voting in the election (Article XIV, Section 2 of the Illinois Constitution).

This year voters will decide whether to add a “Workers Rights Amendment” to the Constitution. The Constitution requires the Secretary of State to mail to every voter in Illinois a pamphlet with the text of the proposed amendment and a set of arguments both for it and against it. You can find the proposed amendments and the arguments; both for and against; by clicking here.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $2,379,698,783 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $3.4 billion. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $141 billion.

Did You Know?

Illinois can lay claim to the event which might have been the first organized automobile race held in the United States. On Thanksgiving in 1895 cars raced from Chicago’s Jackson Park north to Evanston and back. The winning driver was Frank Duryea who made the trip in nine hours.

More news from around the state

Illinois biologists urge public to take down bird feeders, baths through May

DCFS Director Marc Smith held in contempt of court for ninth time for improperly placing teen

Energy assistance available for eligible households across Illinois

Gas group fights “political message” at pumps

18-year-old Illinoisan aims to be youngest U.S. woman to climb Mount Everest