No plot twists in tax saga

As Springfield dawdles on property tax reforms, put the tax bill on the fridge

Posted 1/27/20

“Together, we’ll ensure our children receive the quality education they deserve even while we provide more property tax relief for our homeowners and make our system more fair for …

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No plot twists in tax saga

As Springfield dawdles on property tax reforms, put the tax bill on the fridge

Posted

“Together, we’ll ensure our children receive the quality education they deserve even while we provide more property tax relief for our homeowners and make our system more fair for everyone.”

— Gov. J.B. Pritzker, announcing

formation of a legislative task force

to help Illinois “reduce local reliance

on property taxes,” Aug. 2, 2019.

 

To the surprise of absolutely no Illinois property taxpayers, the special legislative task force formed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in August blew by its Dec. 31, 2019, deadline to make recommendations about property tax relief for those of us who still choose to live in the Land of Lincoln.

When the Edgar, Clark, Douglas, Coles treasurers mail the tax bills to property tax owners, we suggest sticking the bill on the family refrigerator — as a reminder of the decades-long failure of state officials to control their spending — especially the public employee pensions they’ve promised but not funded.

If Pritzker had all the money Illinois has wasted on property tax panels, property tax studies and property tax reform proposals that led nowhere, he could make a nice contribution to some pension fund that’s flirting with insolvency. Thus far his task force’s stab at taming property taxes has proven every bit as ineffectual as its many predecessors.

Pritzker needs some sort of action, or at least eyewash, on property taxes — even if the General Assembly merely passes something sounding impressive but doesn’t lower our tax bills. The governor formed his task force as a standing operating procedure to some Democratic lawmakers who hesitated to support his graduated income tax proposal — aka the Pritzker Tax — unless they could tell property taxpayers help is on the way.

Let’s get one thing clear as lawmakers return to Springfield next week: Ignore the rhetoric. Watch how much property tax bills decline — or don’t. That’s the only metric that matters. We hope it happens. But in its nearly six months of existence, the members of Pritzker’s task force have done zip to, in his words, to “reduce local reliance on property taxes.”

Problem One was appointing a task force of 88 — yes, count 88 — members. Insert here lots of partisan squabbling — It’s your fault! No it’s your fault! — and a rough draft of a report. Read it front to back and wind up where House Republican leader Jim Durkin wound up: “For a state that is so in need of property tax reform, the Democrats have instead proposed tax increases. Heaven help the middle class.”

Long story short: Property taxes can’t plummet until legislators put forth a constitutional amendment that allows for pension reform.

As the legislative spring session unfolds, keep glancing at the property tax bill taped on the refrigerator door.