November 9, 2017

Illinois House OKs property tax relief bill that critics say shifts costs

ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK

The Illinois House approved a two-year property tax relief measure Wednesday that critics say is too watered down with exemptions and actually would serve as a cost shift to businesses and others.

Illinois Rep. Michelle Mussman, D-Schaumburg, introduced Senate Bill 851, which implement a two-year freeze on property taxes in Cook and the collar counties. Downstate voters also can choose a two-year freeze if they approve it by referendum.

School districts on the state's financial watch list, including Chicago Public Schools and 65 other districts statewide, would be exempt from the freeze. Levy increases for pension and other local debt also would be exempt.

Mussman's legislation also would increase the individual homestead exemption to $10,000 and the senior citizens exemption to $8,000.

Acknowledging that critics would prefer a longer-term freeze, Mussman said her measure is a good start.

"I would say a two-year freeze is a good way to introduce this topic," she said. "This is an attempt to compromise with the governor. ... You asked for reform. This is a method of reform."

Illinoisans pay the second highest property taxes in the country, and Gov. Bruce Rauner has made property tax relief a vital part of his Turnaround Agenda.

Rep. Steve Reick, R-Woodstock, said the measure is more of a cost shift because of the increased homestead and senior citizens exemptions.

"If what you do is freeze taxes for certain people, you're going to swtich the tax liability over to others," Reick said. The amount of money local units of government collect "isn't going to go down, it's just going get shifted over to businesses and renters and people like that."

Reick said Mussman's legislation was the wrong way to help overly burdened property owners.

"We do it through reform, we don't do it through gimmicks like freezes that only last for two years," he said.

Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, said Wednesday's vote was political theater to impress voters.

"It's all being done apparently for re-election tricks because there's no chance this will actually be acted upon in the Illinois Senate," Breen said. "I'll be supporting it but, boy, I'll be skeptical and cynical just as I started the day."

Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, said the legislation doesn't do anything to address government spending that drives up the property tax burden statewide.

"It is a political pandering piece of garbage," Ives said. "It does not do anything about the cost drivers that drive up property taxes."

The House voted 75-32, with one member voting present. It now goes to the Illinois Senate.