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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Democrats who run state government celebrated while announcing that tax-rebate checks — totaling more than $1.2 billion — on Monday began heading to 6 million taxpayers.

Rebates on income and property taxes are part of a $1.83 billion inflation-relief package built into this year’s budget.

“Everyone knows inflation is a global problem with local consequences,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a Chicago news conference. “Prices at the pump and at the supermarket have taken Illinois families on a roller-coaster ride over the past months. It’s exactly the kind of thing that responsible government should help our residents with and we have, starting today.”

With eight weeks remaining before the November election, the timing is perfect for Pritzker, Comptroller Susana Mendoza, who shared Monday’s spotlight, and virtually every member of the General Assembly. Rebates will arrive by mail or direct deposit in the closing days of the campaign season, when voters make up their minds.

Individual taxpayers making less than $200,000 will receive a $50 rebate, with $100 to couples filing jointly earning less than $400,000, Revenue Director David Harris said. Taxpayers will also receive $100 for claimed dependents, up to three. Property tax rebates will be equal to the amount a homeowner claimed as a credit on income tax returns last year, up to $300, Harris said.

The rebates are the capstone to the effort begun last winter by Pritzker, and beefed up by legislative Democrats, to fight near-record inflation, which ran as high as 9% this year. Other initiatives include a six-month freeze on an increased motor fuel tax, a year-long suspension of the sales tax on groceries, and a back-to-school sales tax holiday on classroom supplies during August. At the same time, more than $1 billion is put aside for future emergency expenditures.

“We’ve done something very historic. … And if I had to, in this case, sum it up into kind of two words, I would probably say ‘Cha-ching!’” said Rep. Will Davis, a Homewood Democrat who helped negotiate the package.

Pritzker’s fourth budget is extraordinary in Illinois history, particularly given the state’s woeful economic condition during a 2015 to 2017 spending stalemate between legislative Democrats and an intransigent ex-Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

But despite all the bluster about fiscal discipline and spending sanity, Pritzker and Democratic lawmakers couldn’t pull off the massive tax-savings plan without playing an old game in the Capitol — borrowing from a fund set aside for a special purpose and which has a separate funding stream.

To backfill money lost to the road fund from the freeze on motor fuel taxes, officials took $140 million from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank fund. Financed by a separate 1.1-cents-per-gallon gas tax, property owners who have cleaned up sites where leaking fuel tanks threatened the environment are already owed at least $900 million, so the diversion of money puts them further behind, advocates said.


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