Property tax freeze in doubt as Republicans call it a Democratic stunt

State lawmakers likely won't be able to approve a property tax freeze that Republicans called a Democratic political stunt being used to “embarrass” Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has proposed his own version of a freeze.

The plan from state Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, would freeze how much local governments can bill taxpayers starting with the 2015 tax year unless voters agree to raise the ask.

On Thursday, Illinois House Democrats sent to a message to Rauner that they wouldn't go along with one of his anti-union ideas. Today, Franks' plan that he says is modeled after the property tax freeze Rauner backs inched forward but didn't get enough votes to go much further.

“This may be the only time we see a bill like this,” Franks said. “Let's not be pulled into power struggles with others.”

State Rep. Ron Sandack, a Downers Grove Republican, said Franks was trying to “embarrass the governor” via a stunt vote.

“He's being used to perpetrate a fraud,” Sandack said of Franks. “This isn't a real property tax bill.”

House lawmakers voted 37-23 to keep Franks' plan alive, but that's far short of the 60 votes needed to send the plan to the Illinois Senate. Republicans, who back Rauner's plans, put 38 “present” votes on the proposal.

State Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican, said property taxes are complicated and that he's voted for a Franks plan in the past that would freeze taxes if property values go down. Franks' plan is too simplistic, he said.

“The governor is on the right path,” Harris said. “He is taking a holistic approach.”

Neither Franks' nor Rauner's plans would freeze an individual property tax bill. It would freeze how much a government can bill its taxpayers in total. Rauner wants some exceptions for new construction and other factors, ideas that Franks' plan doesn't consider.

Local government leaders have fiercely opposed a freeze, arguing that it would harm their budgets at a time when Rauner is proposing cutting what individual towns get in state income taxes in half.

State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, said the state should leave local taxes decisions to local officials.

“Those individuals are elected to do their job,” Nekritz said.

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