Candidates in Illinois' 40th state senate district debate EV battery plant

Democratic challenger Kimberly Earling said that the state of Illinois is giving an electric vehicle battery maker with alleged ties to the Chinese Communist Party, a 30-year tax break.
battery lab

Incumbent Illinois state Sen. Patrick Joyce, D-Essex, and challenger Kimberly Earling are debating the issue of Gotion coming to Manteno.

Two Democratic senate districts have a primary election, the 20th and the 40th. In the 40th District, Earling said during a recent forum that the state of Illinois is giving Gotion, an electric vehicle battery maker with alleged ties to the Chinese Communist Party, a 30-year tax break. Earling said Gotion already is going back on its word.

"They’re [Gotion] promoting these 2,600 jobs and when they first started advertising, it was advertised at $55k a year,” Earling told The Center Square. “Now there’s new ads that say, ‘Starting at $17 an hour.’ The only way people [in the district] are going to make $55k is if they work a lot of overtime.”

Joyce said Gotion is a major investment for the community and that property tax revenues are up. Joyce also said the iron sulfate battery the company will be manufacturing is safer than the traditional cobalt battery.

"The one thing that Illinois did that no other state has done is that we required they [Gotion] be in U.S. banks,” Joyce told The Center Square. “So we have benchmarks and if they don’t hit those, having them in U.S. banks, smart. That way we can claw back those [tax incentives], so 120% of Kankakee’s current labor salary, that’s where Gotion has to hit a benchmark."

Joyce said his ties with local governments give him a leg up over his opponent. He hasn’t had a primary opponent in four years.

Earling is running because she says constituent relations are poor in the 40th Senate District. She said she lost her daughter to a drug-induced homicide and had tried for five years to get state senators from the Will County area to sponsor an amendment to state law relating to drug crimes.

“I have gone on foot to try and get some bills amended and I just kept hitting wall after wall and I am the type of person that if I can’t get help doing it, I am going to stand up and do it myself,” said Earling.

Meanwhile, Joyce touts his “constituent services” and said his close ties to local government makes him a better choice.

"I have close ties with everyone in those governments. We do a lot of constituent services in our district,” said Joyce. “Making sure people are heard and that you take care of their problems.”

Joyce was appointed to the seat in 2019. Joyce’s father Jerome Joyce held the same senate seat for 17 years, from 1975 to 1992, and then Joyce’s mother Janet Joyce held the seat briefly and finished out Jerome’s final year.

The primary is March 19. Early voting is underway.

Greg Bishop contributed to this report.