CAPITOL RECAP: State Fair begins in Springfield

CAPITOL RECAP: State Fair begins in Springfield

By CAPITOL NEWS ILLINOIS

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker and Illinois State Fair organizers unveiled the 101st State Fair butter cow Wednesday, an unofficial kickoff of the fair which began Thursday, Aug. 11, and runs through Aug. 21.

The sculpture – by Iowan Sarah Pratt – consists of more than 800 pounds of recycled butter in the shape of a cow munching on a sunflower. It also pictures a farmer tending the land and growing sunflowers, one of which was eaten by the cow.

The theme of the 2022 fair and butter cow is “Grow with Us.”

It’s a nod to the state’s agriculture industry as well as $58.1 million in construction that is planned at the fairgrounds, according to Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Jerry Costello II. The renovations are funded by the state’s Rebuild Illinois capital infrastructure program, approved on bipartisan lines in 2019.

Pritzker, at the unveiling Wednesday, said the theme for the year was fitting for Illinois, pointing to job growth and infrastructure investment.

Rebecca Clark, who was named the new fair manager this year, said the theme also touches on the fair’s agricultural roots.

Grandstand attractions, among others, include pop star Demi Lovato on Saturday, Aug. 13, country duo Brooks & Dunn on Sunday, Aug. 14, country star Willie Nelson & Family on Tuesday, Aug. 16, and comedian Trevor Noah on Friday, Aug. 19.

The Department of Innovation and Technology will host its second annual Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics Expo from Aug. 17-21, complete with e-sports competitions, drone racing and interactive exhibits. Fairgoers will also be able to take home a 3D-printed miniature butter cow from the STEAM tent.

The butter cow sculpture will remain on display in the Dairy Building throughout the fair and is viewable live via the butter cow webcam.

As for infrastructure investment, Pritzker and Costello said its noticeable from the roads to the rooftops on the fairgrounds.

The 122-year-old coliseum at the fairgrounds saw renovations for its structural integrity in 2019, while Phase 2 construction at the facility is set to begin when the fair concludes this year. The $16.3 million in planned renovations include electrical and plumbing work, an elevator and adding an HVAC system.

Costello said the HVAC system will allow for year-round use of the coliseum, which could mean an expansion of dog shows or other events. In 2025, the fairgrounds will host the World Clydesdale Show.

Clark said fair organizers are working with the Community Foundation of the Land of Lincoln on a long-term plan to “really help explore what the future of this fairgrounds will look like.”

The multi-purpose arena at the fairgrounds will be temporarily closed this year, but it’s also on the list of makeover projects. The 261,000 square foot arena was constructed in 2000.

It will receive $8.6 million in work, including repairs to sidewalks, walls, steps, expansion joints and electrical systems. It will receive a new canopy and other structural work, including new retaining walls around the facility.

Other renovations included roof and HVAC replacements in various buildings, as well as energy improvements and tuckpoint work.

* * *

ABORTION FALLOUT: Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker said this week that he is actively reaching out to businesses in Indiana and other states that have recently passed restrictive abortion laws in hopes of luring those companies to Illinois.

“Well, already I’ve reached out to companies that are affected in Indiana. I want to make sure that they know that they’re welcome in Illinois, any expansion that they may be looking to do, that we welcome their employees,” Pritzker said at a Monday, Aug. 8, news conference.

His comments came just days after Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, signed into law a near-total ban on abortions in that state, making Indiana the first state to enact a new law restricting abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court in June overturned the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade which had previously legalized abortion nationwide.

Indiana’s new law bans the procedure except in cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies or when the pregnant person’s life is at risk.

The day after Holcomb signed that bill, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company, one of the state’s largest employers, issued a statement saying it would look to expand its workforce outside of its home state.

That statement helped highlight the growing fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the decision that overturned Roe, exposing both the political and economic consequences of the ruling.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization that supports abortion rights, Illinois is one of only a handful of states – and the only state in the Midwest – with laws specifically protecting access to abortion services.

On Thursday, Aug. 4, Pritzker announced the state would increase its Medicaid reimbursement rate for abortion services by 20 percent, effective Sept. 1, as a way to provide increased resources to abortion providers who are seeing increased patient loads due to women coming to Illinois from other states.

Pritzker has also tried to make abortion rights a central issue in his campaign for reelection to a second term, contrasting his support for those rights with the views of the Republican candidate, state Sen. Darren Bailey, of Xenia, who in 2017 compared abortion in the United States to the Nazi Holocaust.

“The attempted extermination of the Jews of World War II doesn’t even compare on a shadow of the life that has been lost with abortion since its legalization,” Bailey said in a video statement at the time.

* * *

SALES TAX REDUCTION: Beginning Friday, Aug. 5, and lasting through Aug. 14, the state will reduce its sales tax rate from 6.25 percent to 1.25 percent for certain clothing items costing less than $125 and school supplies.

The “tax holiday” was included in Gov. JB Pritzker’s “family relief plan,” one prong of several bills making up the Fiscal Year 2023 operating budget. The tax breaks passed with nearly unanimous support in the General Assembly and provided an estimated $1.8 billion in tax relief for Illinoisans.

The state estimated the sales tax reduction would amount to $50 million in savings for taxpayers.

Included clothing items: The 10-day tax reduction includes clothing items costing less than $125 individually.

Clothing items, as defined by the law, include the standard items such as shorts, pants, skirts, shirts and underwear. The tax reduction will also apply to aprons, hats, caps and earmuffs, coats and jackets, belts and suspenders, rubber pants, lab coats, hosiery, scarves, bathing suits, school uniforms and neckties.

It also applies to footwear – shoes, shoelaces, slippers, insoles, boots, socks and sandals.

Excluded items: But it does not apply to ballet, tap or athletic shoes, roller or ice skates, ski boots, waders, or fins.

Shoppers also should not expect the reduced sales tax rate on accessory items such as briefcases, hair bows, handbags, jewelry, sunglasses or wigs. The reduction also does not apply to sports gloves, goggles, hand and elbow guards, life preservers, wetsuits, shoulder pads, shin guards or mouth guards.

Also excluded are protective equipment items such as breathing masks, hearing protectors, face shields, hard hats and helmets, respirators, protective gloves, safety goggles or tool belts.

Included school supplies: Binders, book bags, calculators, cellophane tape, blackboard chalk, notebooks, erasers, folders, index cards, legal pads, lunch boxes, pencils and sharpeners, supply boxes, protractors, rulers, compasses, and scissors are all eligible for the reduced tax rate.

So are glue, highlighters, markers, crayons and colored pencils.

Excluded items: Shoppers should not expect other art supplies to be eligible for the reduced rate, however. Clay and glaze, paints and paint brushes, sketch pads and drawing pads will all be taxed at the regular 6.25 percent rate.

Textbooks, reference books, maps and globes are all excluded from the “holiday” as well.

Electronics and computers will also be taxed at the regular rate. That includes computers and related supplies such as flash drives, memory cards, data storage, computer cases, cables, printers and ink.

Shoppers also should not expect any breaks while buying cameras, cellphones or handheld electronics.

Guidance from the Illinois Department of Revenue on qualifying items can be found here.

* * *

OTHER TAX RELIEF: Other tax relief measures approved in the budget include a property tax rebate up to 5 percent of the homeowner’s tax bill up to $300, and a one-time income tax rebate of $50 per individual and $100 per dependent, up to a limit of three children per family. Those would be available to individuals with incomes up to $200,000 and joint filers with incomes up to $400,000.

The package also suspends for one year the 1 percent tax on groceries and puts a six-month pause on the automatic inflationary increase in the state’s motor fuel tax, which was estimated to be 2.2 cents per gallon.

The plan also permanently expands the state earned income tax credit from 18 to 20 percent of the federal credit while also expanding the number of households that can claim the credit.

The measure also set an income tax credit for teachers buying classroom supplies at $250 for the current year and $500 beginning Jan. 1, 2023.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government that is distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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