Real estate tax bills were due Wednesday in Cook County, and, naturally, homeowners are unhappy about increases. It was the perfect atmosphere for Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn and Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool to pitch their crowd-pleasing Taxpayer Advisory Board which, except for the fact that it is illegal, unnecessary and wasteful, certainly sounded like a good idea.
Casting aside, for the moment, the supreme irony of attempting to streamline the government and control spending by creating yet another bureaucratic entity, the larger question remains of why real estate taxes went up. The answer is not any jump in the tax rate but property values that have been marching ever skyward, usually in the double digits, for years now, despite a stumbling economy. While homeowners want their property to rise in value and celebrate increases when they decide to sell, they sing a different tune at tax time.
The Taxpayer Advisory Board, or TAB, was modeled after Quinn's Citizens Utility Board, and though some would argue CUB has been effective in thwarting ComEd's more egregious schemes, we question whether TAB would have been as successful, even had the state's attorney's office not ruled that its creation was an illegal exercise of authority to be initially funded by an illegal loan from the treasurer's office.
ComEd was a single state-controlled monopoly. Taxing bodies -- and there are 1,800 -- are government, and we fail to see how TAB, were it legal, would not be long on fury and short on effect.
Populism feels good -- Quinn as lieutenant governor is close to Jimmy Stewart in the motion picture version of the Senate. But sometimes populism is best left to the movies.
With the state $5 billion in debt and the county trying to plug a projected $100 million shortfall in next year's budget, this is not the moment to be growing the bureaucracy or inviting the public to cut revenues willy-nilly.