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For property tax relief, reduce the cost of local government
Illinois is an outlier when it comes to the number of local governments it has and the property tax burden it places on residents compared to other states. The two are very much related, and it is time Springfield took action.

Friday, January 24, 2020
Crain's Chicago Business
by ADAM HOEFLICH, LAURENCE MSALL

The Civic Federation agrees with Joe Cahill’s recent critique of the shortcomings of the draft preliminary report of the State of Illinois Property Tax Relief Task Force. Though it only reflects the initial work of more than 80 members of the General Assembly, much more is needed if Illinois is to begin addressing its property tax crisis.

Property owners throughout the state will get their first installment property tax bills in the coming weeks, but they won’t be seeing any immediate relief from the $31 billion property tax burden that is threatening our state’s economy.

 

The draft report of the Task Force properly points out that Illinois is an outlier when it comes to the number of local governments it has and the property tax burden it places on residents compared to other states. The two are very much related, and it is time our leaders in Springfield took action.

The Federation urges the Task Force and entire General Assembly to conduct a serious review of how Illinois’ 6,000-plus local governments deliver services to the residents of Illinois. The state created these local governments and, accordingly, it should develop a comprehensive plan to begin to modernize and reduce the cost of local government, whether through consolidation or other means.

The state should not pursue more band-aids such as increased property tax exemptions that only shift the burden among taxpayers without addressing the core problem. The enactment of Public Act 100-0107 in 2018 was a step in the right direction by creating a pathway for local governments to streamline the way they deliver services.

The draft report also briefly notes the enactment of the first phase of the consolidation of nearly 650 downstate and suburban police and fire pension funds. The Federation is encouraged by the state’s passage of this meaningful pension reform, but urges continued work to enact even greater reforms that include Chicago and Cook County. Across all of Illinois, the portion of the property tax levy that goes to fund local government pensions has continued to increase and is crowding out spending on core services.

Let’s hope that when lawmakers return to Springfield later this month, a final report from the Task Force is issued with bipartisan support that lays out meaningful and well thought out recommendations on how to comprehensively address the growing property tax burden facing taxpayers. And they'll need the political will to enact those reforms.

Adam Hoeflich is trustees chair of the Civic Federation. Laurence Msall is its president.

 

 

 



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