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House OKs annual Cook County property assessments
Illinois House approves proposal for annual residential assessments

Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Chicago Tribune
by Ashley Wiehle

SPRINGFIELDCook County would join the rest of the state in having annual property tax assessments under legislation the Illinois House passed Wednesday.

The measure is designed to take advantage of rapid fluctuations in the housing market, particularly when dropping values could lower property tax bills. Rep. Kevin Joyce (D-Chicago), the legislation's sponsor, said the current three-year reassessment cycle is "not fair and equitable."

"We need to make sure that . . . people aren't paying an undue burden," Joyce said.

The House approved the bill on a 78-32 vote, sending it to the Senate. But Cook County Assessor James Houlihan's office questioned the price tag, saying it could cost $10 million to reassess the entire county by the measure's proposed October deadline. The bill does not apply to commercial or industrial property.

The legislation advanced the same day Houlihan proposed a separate measure to lower Cook assessment levels from 16 percent to 10 percent for residential properties and from as high as 38 percent down to 25 percent for commercial and industrial properties. In practice, homeowners already have been assessed at that level for years.

In other House action, Democrats advanced legislation to reinstate straight-ticket voting that allows citizens to punch one box on a ballot to support a party's entire slate. The Elections and Campaign Reform Committee sent the bill to the full House on a party-line 5-4 vote.

Fearing Democrats sought to take advantage of momentum from U.S. Sen.
Barack Obama's presidential bid, Rep. Tim Schmitz (R- Batavia) called the timing "suspect." Sponsoring Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago) said he has long wanted to resurrect straight-ticket voting, which Republicans abolished in 1997 after losing control of the House.

"This bill simply restores what had been the law of the land in Illinois for well over a century and that is giving voters a choice to cast a straight-ticket vote," Fritchey said.

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