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Illinois legislators call for meaningful property tax relief, not another study

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(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker could have another chance to create a task force to conduct a study of Illinois’ property tax system after a measure advanced both chambers despite some saying it will be a waste of time.

State Rep. Mary Beth Canty, D-Arlington Heights, defended Senate Bill 3455 to create a task force including members from the Illinois Department of Revenue and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to conduct a study to evaluate the property tax system in the state.

State Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, pointed out that a similar study was conducted after being created in 2019. Canty didn’t have the results of that study.

“People are leaving this state in droves because of high property taxes, high income taxes, and the like … X,Y,Z name your tax. In 2019 the gas tax went up by double. We don’t know the results of what happened with this 2019 task force that has 88 members and yet we are doing another bill,” said Halbrook. “This isn’t rocket science. We’re not trying to put a man on the moon here. You could pull 10 people in and by tomorrow morning, we could have an answer to what needs to be done here to reform this system. We want to do another bill that will do nothing and go nowhere.”

In 2020, after the Illinois Property Tax Relief Task Force missed its deadline, Illinois Republicans said they wouldn’t sign off on a draft report because it didn’t include substantive changes to the state’s property tax system.

Canty said the proponents of her bill this General Assembly believe that the past studies that have been done on the property tax system were not sufficient to address the inequities they felt exist in the property tax system. Halbrook pressed her about those “inequities.”

“What inequities and what system?” asked Halbrook.

“In Cook county, in particular, they have a different model of assessing property taxes and differentiates between residential and commercial properties,” said Canty. “There is a belief that that system is inequitable and we would like to do an independent study to figure out if that’s true, and if so we will have recommendations on how to make adjustments.”

Halbrook said the facts are Illinois has among the highest property taxes in the nation.

State Rep. Tom Weber, R-Fox Lake, said he was on the property tax relief task force in 2019 and there were a lot of good initiatives introduced and not one thing came to fruition.

“Over 70% of our property taxes go to our school districts and they should be involved and we should try to understand where that 70% is going,” Weber said. “We don’t have property taxpayers involved and this is going to be another waste of time.”

Weber said no one has the stomach in the legislative body to pass meaningful property tax relief.

State Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, joked that the Chicago Chamber of Commerce supported it and they are not some “big-government, leftist interest group.”

“I understand we didn’t fix everything in 2019 and if we take that to mean we should therefore stop trying to fix the problems of the property tax system and just live with it the way it is forever then I think we should vote ‘no’ on this bill, but if we think there’s yet more to learn on how to improve the property tax system in this state, I think this bill provides a clear, wonderful roadmap to getting some meaningful reform done and I urge an ‘aye’ vote,” said Guzzardi.

The bill passed both houses and can now be sent to the governor for further action.

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