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Property tax relief plan gets 2nd life
Senate compromise may mean a cap for Cook homeowners

Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

Legislation to extend the so-called 7 percent property-tax cap in Cook County may be on the move again after a long debate over how generous to make the replacement relief plan.

A key Senate sponsor said Monday that lawmakers would compromise in favor of a bill pushed by House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago, even as a group of Chicago aldermen complained it was not good enough.

The 2004 tax-cap law is scheduled to expire for Chicago homeowners this year and in the county's suburbs over the next two years. It raised the exemption on each home to a maximum of $20,000 to limit the annual increase in the property's taxable assessed value to 7 percent.
The Illinois Senate in February passed a bill that would have renewed the tax-cap law and increased the amount of the homeowner's exemption to $60,000.

But in late May the House passed a version that dramatically reduced the exemption proposed by the Senate. In addition, the House targeted relief for people who have owned their homes for at least 10 years and whose annual household income does not exceed $75,000.

House leaders said the Senate version was overly generous, especially for homeowners who could afford to pay the higher taxes.

A group of Chicago aldermen held a news conference at City Hall to complain that the House version would help homeowners this fall but would allow tax bills to jump 40 percent in the next two years as the exemption limit is reduced.

"People are going to be forced out of our neighborhoods," said Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th), who co-wrote a letter saying the House version will give taxpayers a "false sense of hope."

Despite the aldermen's concerns, the House version appeared to be picking up speed.

Mayor Richard Daley has signed on to the House version because he wants to ensure "we can provide our residents with good relief as opposed to nothing," spokeswoman Jodi Kawada said.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich shares the aldermen's concerns and hopes lawmakers will amend the bill, but it's unlikely he would veto the House version if that's what lands on his desk, spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said.

Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan), the chief sponsor of the Senate version, said he expects the Senate will approve the exemption provisions passed by the House. But he said the bill will include a requirement for a review next year to possibly increase the exemption for 2008 and 2009.



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