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updated: 9/4/2014 6:41 PM

Riopell: Democrat calls Rauner 'carnival barker' over tax plan

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Republican Bruce Rauner released another ad this week aimed at the suburbs and touting his plan to freeze property taxes, knowing it's a hot-button issue in the suburban areas that will be key in November.

Former Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan responded on behalf of Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, calling Rauner a "carnival barker" and arguing the Winnetka businessman's vague plans aren't likely to become reality.

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"The biggest problem is he can't do it," Houlihan said. "Here is someone who is campaigning on a position that is impossible to do."

Rauner has previously run a similar radio spot.

"My plan is simple," he says in the latest ad. "No more excuses. Freeze property taxes and require voter approval for politicians to raise them."

His campaign hasn't said how he'd freeze taxes. Would individual bills be frozen? Would the amount local governments can ask for be frozen? Rauner's original materials about the idea don't say, but the idea has helped make local property taxes a focus in a contest that initially focused on state income tax rates.

Quinn made his own bid to provide property tax relief this spring by trying to raise the property tax credit homeowners could claim on their income taxes. Despite the fanfare, state lawmakers never seriously considered going along.

Déjà vu?

More specific plans to freeze property taxes have come up in Springfield in the past few years, via a handful of suburban lawmakers.

How did those proposals do?

They didn't make it.

School and local officials say any prospect of the state curtailing their abilities to collect taxes means they won't be able to keep up with the rising cost of everything, from labor to gasoline.

State Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, has pushed for a few years a plan that would freeze how much suburban governments can ask for in taxes if local property values dropped overall.

He argues that if property values are dropping, local government shouldn't be asking for more money from homeowners already feeling the pinch.

It was approved by the Illinois House in 2012 but never considered by the Senate. In 2013, it was rejected by the House. This year, Republican state Rep. Ron Sandack of Downers Grove and others introduced a similar plan that went nowhere.

Sandack says he's a fan of Rauner's idea because, among other reasons, it's easier to understand than his own.

"I think it's a lot more easily digestible," Sandack said. "The real estate tax levy mystifies most people."

Halls of justice

Republican candidate for Illinois Treasurer Tom Cross said if elected he'd sue lawmakers if they didn't approve a balanced budget.

The lawmaker from Oswego said the Illinois Constitution mandates the state's expenses can't exceed its income and that he'd "go to court to enforce it."

"We feel the treasurer has a responsibility and a duty to enforce that provision of the constitution," Cross said.

Cross made the comments while accepting the endorsement of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce in his race against Democratic state Sen. Mike Frerichs of Champaign.

The Illinois Constitution says the money lawmakers spend "shall not exceed funds estimated" to come in that year.

Frerichs responded by saying such a lawsuit isn't really the state treasurer's job. Campaign manager Zach Koutsky questioned why Cross wouldn't have sued already.

"He certainly could have done it in the 20 years he served in the General Assembly," Koutsky said.

Cross says the office of the treasurer would have the appropriate standing in court to sue.

The two candidates are looking to replace Republican Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who lost a primary bid for governor in March.

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