CHICAGO (CBS) — A big part of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s so-called “Turnaround Agenda” is a property tax freeze, but Republicans said the latest version approved by House Democrats is no more than political pandering.
The House voted 75-32 on legislation that would freeze the amount of property taxes local governments could collect for the next two years in Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane, McHenry, and Will counties; and require all other counties in the state to pass a referendum in the 2018 election to freeze their property taxes for two years.
Voters in Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane, McHenry, and Will counties also would be allowed to vote to lift the freeze.
The measure also would increase homestead and senior citizen exemptions that help reduce property tax bills, and would exempt financially strapped school districts from the freeze.
The vote fell largely along party lines, and several House Republicans called the vote a political stunt meant to appease voters in 2018, predicting the Senate would not act on the legislation.
“It’s all being done apparently for re-election tricks, because there’s no chance that this will actually be acted upon in the Illinois Senate. So, really, I don’t know if there’s any point in debating, because this bill’s going to die whether it passes this chamber or not,” said Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard), who still voted in favor of the legislation.
A Senate spokesman said the bill is under review, and the sponsor, Rep. Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg) said there’s no reason to think the Senate won’t vote on the freeze.
“[Senate] President Cullerton is actually the sponsor in the Senate, and they are in session. There is no reason to believe that this bill will go nowhere. There is absolutely a possibility for this bill to do something,” she said.
Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), who is planning to run against Rauner next year, voted against the freeze, calling it “a political pandering piece of garbage.”
“Everybody knows that pension and debt is outside of this limit, which means that you can’t guarantee any individual property tax owner that you’re going to freeze their property taxes. It’s simply untrue. This bill’s a lie,” she said.
Other Republicans said the property tax freeze would create a hardship for local governments in counties that freeze property tax levies.
“How do you answer to your constituents when your taxing bodies are going out on a borrowing spree, simply because we have told them they cannot extend their levies or increase their levies?” state Rep. Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) asked Mussman.
“That is something those taxing bodies need to take up with their residents,” answered Mussman. “They need to explain why it is that they did not make other modifications in their spending, and honestly this is something the state has to contend with every single year, also.”
Reick said the property tax freeze would not end up saving people money.
“If what you do is freeze taxes to certain people, you’re going to switch the tax liability over to others. The tax liability of the county or whatever is not going to go down. It’s just going to get shifted over to businesses, and renters, and people like that,” he said.