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  Last year more people used the County's forest preserves than visited Yellowstone National Park.

Property tax relief extended.
COOK COUNTY | Exemption less than gov wanted; expect bill soon

Saturday, October 13, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times

Call it good news or bad news: You should get your property tax bill in 15-20 days.

Cook County tax officials will work through the weekend to prepare the bills, after a vote Friday by
state legislators to override Gov. Blagojevich's veto and pass a watered-down tax relief plan.

The bill, designed to spare residents of rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods from sudden tax spikes, gives a homeowner's exemption of $33,000 on a home's assessed valuation in the first year, less in subsequent years. Blagojevich's bill would have upped that to $40,000 and made it permanent.

Lower assessed valuations result in lower tax bills.
Madigan criticized

Some state senators said they resented having to override Blagojevich's version of the bill. But House
Speaker Mike Madigan shrewdly ran out the clock on them, leaving them in a position to either approve
his weaker bill or take the blame for delaying the vote and forcing school districts to start borrowing
money to pay bills.

"We're held over a barrel because of the legislative Ping-Pong that has gone on and because of a
conflict of interest," said state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago).

Raoul was referring to Madigan's side business representing downtown building owners, who said
Blagojevich's version of the tax-relief plan would shift even more tax burden from homeowners to them.
"That an individual's conflict of interest can prevail in this matter is unfortunate because it is the
constituents we represent -- it is their well-being we should be looking out for," Raoul said.

Denying any conflict, Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said Madigan's clients oppose any shifting of the
tax burden from homeowners to businesses, so if Madigan was representing their interests he'd have
pushed no exemption instead of a $33,000 exemption.

Officials called Friday's vote good news for homeowners and local governments alike, as the bills will
likely be due Nov. 26 -- just short of a Dec. 1 deadline, when governments would have had to borrow
funds to make ends meet.

County Board to vote on it

The only hurdle remaining is approval by the Cook County Board, which will have to call a special
meeting next week to approve the Legislature's actions.

Cook County Clerk David Orr and Assessor James Houlihan had already been working on what tax rates
might be if this 7 percent exemption plan passed.

"They were unofficial numbers, but I'm glad we went ahead with them, otherwise we would have been in
real trouble," Orr said.

Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas said her staff will likely have bills ready to "hit mailboxes in the
next 15 to 20 days," with staffers working overtime to do it.

Mayor Daley has proposed a $108 million property tax increase, contingent on the extension of the 7
percent cap.

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