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SPRINGFIELD - Despite objections from school officials, legislation that would restore a property tax break for senior citizens is on its way to the Illinois House for a vote.

Known as the "senior freeze," the proposal seeks to stabilize property taxes for Illinois homeowners who are over age 65 and who make less than $50,000 a year.

"We want to do everything we can to make sure seniors can afford to stay in their homes," said state Rep. Bob Flider, D-Mount Zion, sponsor of the legislation.

On Wednesday, the legislation was approved by the Revenue Committee and now heads to the full House for further action.

The measure is moving through the legislative process in response to a decision last year by the Illinois Supreme Court, which ruled a similar, existing law was unconstitutional because of technical problems.

However, the new proposal is not identical to the old law. It would increase the income threshold by $5,000 and increase the senior homestead deduction from $3,000 to $3,500.

Flider said the benefits changed because seniors on fixed incomes have to deal with inflation and higher heating bills since the original legislation went into effect in the mid-1990s.

State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, expressed concern that the tax burden would just be redistributed and that homeowners with small children could end up bearing the burden.

School officials also are balking at the proposal because it would mean less cash for local school districts, which rely on property taxes for a large percentage of their funding.

"We understand the plight of seniors, and that's part of the reason we've long been an advocate for school funding reform," said Dave Comerford, spokesman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

He said the state should bear the largest burden for school funding, rather than having schools rely mostly on their local property taxes.

Flider said if the measure is approved, it would be as if the original legislation had never been ruled unconstitutional.

The legislation is House Bill 4789.


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