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Preckwinkle avoids symbolic property tax vote pushed by Rauner ally
Wednesday, April 01, 2015 Chicago Tribune by Hal Dardick
Democratic Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle reached into the rule book Wednesday to avoid a symbolic vote on a potential property tax increase that a key ally of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner had pushed.
Commissioner Timothy Schneider, Rauner's handpicked Illinois Republican Party chairman, put forth a resolution opposing a property tax hike. But when it came up during the County Board meeting, Preckwinkle ruled the proposal out of order, thus delaying any debate on the politically tricky subject until she formally introduces her 2016 budget later this year.
By then, she will have a better read on the prospects of her proposed changes to the county pension system — which could require taxpayers to dig deeper into their pockets — that she continues to push in Springfield after it foundered last year.
"The residents of the county deserve to know if their property taxes will be increased in this next budget as soon as possible," said Schneider, R-Streamwood.
"I have been asked numerous times to discuss with Republicans in the legislature and the governor, to discuss the (county) pension bill, and get his intake and buy-in to the pension bill," Schneider said. "And I keep going back to the (Preckwinkle) administration and its staff and saying, 'Will this involve a property tax increase, or will it not?' And I get no answer."
Preckwinkle's proposed pension measure would reduce cost-of-living increases, raise the retirement age and require government workers to pay more while guaranteeing retirement health care subsidies. It also would require the county to pump $144 million more a year into the pension fund.
If paid for with property taxes, it would cost the average homeowner up to $65 more a year starting in 2017, according to an internal county document the Tribune obtained last May. But state lawmakers might balk at the measure if they know it will trigger a property tax increase, and Preckwinkle has only said all options are on the table when asked about it.