More tax incentives to employ ex-felons?

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Reporter - Kendall Downing

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Ill. - Businesses in a local state might soon have more of an economic incentive to put an ex-felon on their payroll.

Illinois already offers a $600 state income tax credit for employers who hire ex-convicts. But a bill making its way through the legislature would more than double that amount to $1,500 per employee.

The Illinois Senate passed the measure and sent it on to the Illinois House.

In addition to upping the credit amount, the legislation expands the definition of who's eligible which now includes both violent and non-violent offenders.

Businesses could qualify as long as they hired the employee within three years of their release from prison. The chances may be enough to stop someone from heading back to prison.

Ernest Hale knows a lot about second chances.

"Giving back is the main part of what I do," he said.

He got one almost two years ago after a decade behind bars.

"I was incarcerated for drug crime," he said.

Now Hale works with Lutheran Social Services of Illinois helping others stay on track. Hale said he supports the legislation to up the tax credit for hiring ex-felons.

"Some of these folk don't have the opportunity otherwise," he said.

Jane Otte agrees.

"For me, it's a win, win," she said.

She's Ernest Hale's boss and works with returning citizens to help them land a job that's the right fit.

"We advise them on what's the best thing to do. And yes it should be a match. It should be a match on their skill and what the business is providing," said Otte.

But even with a tax break John Murrow of Egyptian Exterminating said he's think twice.

"It'd have to be based on getting to know that person," said Murrow.

That's because of the nature of his business, where technicians go right into homes.

Hale's just glad someone gave him a chance, and that's why he hopes the same for others.

"The more incentive to hire ex-felons the better," he said.

The proposal's undergone a first reading in the Illinois House. It's now waiting in the Rules Committee.

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