Harriss: SAFE-T Act will make Metro East less safe and more expensive

My letter to the editor explaining my opposition to the SAFE-T Act and the impact it will have on our community

To the Editor: 

Illinois’ controversial SAFE-T Act is making headlines throughout the nation for the risk it poses to communities in Illinois. While there is no doubt that the sweeping overhaul to Illinois’ criminal justice and pre-trial detention system will make Illinois less safe, it can also make our downstate communities more expensive. 

Along with eliminating cash bail, the SAFE-T Act imposes a variety of unfunded mandates that are detrimental to our downstate police departments, many of which were already struggling to keep up with state mandates designed for larger urban areas. These mandates could force our local governments to reduce our safety services, raise taxes or both. 

The state sponsored defunding of the police leaves local counties and municipalities with dire and unfair choices on whether to cut their law enforcement budgets and other safety services or, find new revenue to fund the police mandates through, you guessed it, new taxes. 

We are now seeing that play out in real-time in northern Kane County where the county board is considering their first property tax increase in a decade in part to fill a $3 million hole stemming from new SAFE-T Act mandates. 

In my time on the  Madison County Board I am proud that we have successfully increased funding for law enforcement without increasing taxes, and these new unfunded mandates will undoubtedly make that more difficult in the future. 

With record inflation, the highest grocery price increases since 1979, and a nearly 15 percent rise in electricity prices from just last year, the SAFE-T Act is just one more bill Metro East families can’t afford. 

Erica Harriss, Madison County Board member and State Senate candidate