Seeking to alleviate the growing burden of property taxes for Illinois homeowners, a group of legislators is considering a host of options that include consolidating school districts and allowing voters across the state to dissolve units of local government.
The legislative task force, created this summer by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, has a Dec. 31 deadline to deliver its recommendations. Its report is expected to lead to “very multifaceted” -- and likely controversial -- legislation this spring, said Rep. Sam Yingling, the Grayslake Democrat chairing the panel.
“Introducing anything less than a substantial overhaul will not be tolerated by the public,” Yingling said. “This will be a heavy lift, and we’re going to have to make some very tough decisions.”
Assigning an issue to a task force can be a recipe for endless study and little action. But there’s an extra impetus to do something about property taxes before November, when Illinois voters will decide whether the state should overhaul its income tax structure.
The move to a graduated-rate income tax, approved by the General Assembly this spring, is a cornerstone of Pritzker’s first-term agenda. Pritzker promised voters during his campaign that if they approve the constitutional amendment in November 2020, he will use proceeds to help alleviate property taxes.
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It’s an issue that has proven difficult to address. This spring, legislators considered a proposal that would have frozen school district property tax rates if voters approved the constitutional amendment on income taxes and if the state took on more of the overall education funding share for education in Illinois.
That measure didn’t advance out of the House, and instead the task force was created to find solutions for reducing the property tax burden on Illinois homeowners.
Yingling and fellow Democratic Rep. Jonathan Carroll of Northbrook, who both represent affluent suburban districts, said during the spring session they were concerned about advancing the graduated-rate income tax to voters without measures tied to alleviating property taxes.
“What I hear repeatedly from my constituents is that they’re willing to pay a little more in income tax to have a substantial decrease in property taxes,” Yingling said. “If they lose a job, become ill and are not able to work, their tax liability ceases. Under the current model, that property tax bill is still coming, without one’s ability to pay for it. This creates a massive insecurity within households.”
Rep. Will Davis, a south suburban Democrat, acknowledged at the task force meeting in October the difficulty of large-scale property tax reform.
“There is no silver bullet,” he said. “There is no one-size-fits-all for all of this.”