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House shoots down Cook County tax breaks

Thursday, February 05, 2004
Daily Herald

SPRINGFIELD - An attempt to cap skyrocketing property assessments in Cook County was voted down Wednesday as Republican and downstate lawmakers in the Illinois House turned the issue into an us-versus-them debate.

The proposal touted by Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan and several Cook County lawmakers would put limits on the annual increase in tax assessments. The move is designed to combat double-digit increases that have sent tax bills soaring and angered homeowners.

State Rep. John Fritchey, a Chicago Democrat, said without the limits, people would be forced out of their homes.

But downstate and suburban lawmakers questioned why only Cook County should benefit. State Rep. Bill Black, a Danville Republican, noted that Cook County homeowners already enjoy a larger tax exemption. Cook County homeowners get a $4,500 exemption while the exemption is $3,500 in the other 101 counties.

The proposed limits cap assessment growth to 7 percent a year, and the maximum exemption would be $25,000. It applies to owner occupied property and rental property with fewer than six apartments.

Black said just because areas of the state aren't growing as fast as Cook County doesn't mean homeowners aren't having problems paying the tax bills.

"What am I supposed to tell seniors in my district?" he said.

Others said the tax burden would be shifted to poor people in large apartment complexes and businesses.

The proposal was voted down 49-61. Proposals need 60 votes to pass in the Illinois House. Supporters used a technical procedure to wipe out the roll call and thereby preserve the chance to bring the plan back for another vote if they can round up the necessary votes.

But even if it passes the House, chances are dubious in the Illinois Senate.

Senate President Emil Jones Jr., a Chicago Democrat, chastised Houlihan for trying to push off his burden on lawmakers and said he's concerned about the effect on poor people.

"The assessor is the assessor. He sets the doggone rates," Jones said. "So why should we be down here trying to do his job?"

 



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