State legislators oppose measure to let McHenry County leader reduce taxes

A controversial measure seeking to increase the McHenry County Board chairman's powers to cut property taxes is dead in its original form, but that doesn't mean the issue is going away, the legislation's sponsors said Friday.

House Bill 3317 - sponsored by state Reps. Sam Yingling, a Grayslake Democrat, and David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican - has been stripped of provisions that would have reorganized McHenry County's government structure and significantly increased the chairman's authority.

Yet some of that language might still make it into fresh legislation seeking to update county government code, said Yingling, chairman of the Counties & Townships Committee.

"The committee has been reaching out to interested parties across the state," he said. "We are in the process of putting together a bill that will make a variety of different updates within the county code. McHenry County has submitted some ideas. We are looking at everything collectively determining what will be the best language moving forward."

Opponents attributed the "gutting" of HB 3317 to mounting public pressure against restructuring McHenry County government.

Republican state Reps. Steve Reick of Woodstock and Tom Weber of Lake Villa organized opposition to the bill, conducting a Facebook poll and gathering more than 250 signatures on a joint petition against it.

"The two bill sponsors, neither of whom live in McHenry County, tried to do an end-run around the results of a 2012 referendum, where McHenry County voters rejected a county executive form of government" by a 2-to-1 ratio, said Reick, whose 63rd District falls entirely within McHenry County. County residents "want balanced government and not a concentration of powers" in one person's hands, he added.

Weber, whose 64th District covers McHenry County from Lakewood and Crystal Lake north to Spring Grove, said voters have the power to change the government structure "without the state stepping in to micromanage the process."

Yingling said he made it clear that the legislation would be amended when he took over as chief sponsor, but he didn't reject McSweeney's ideas.

"I firmly agree with Rep. McSweeney's initiatives to reduce property taxes and ensure that governments are not sitting on large reserves of taxpayers' money," Yingling said. "Some of those tax-saving initiatives will probably more than likely make it into the final version of the bill."

The new legislation also would include a provision allowing Lake County Board members to remove and replace a county board chairman, prompted by "corruption" under former Chairman Aaron Lawlor, Yingling said.

Lake County Board members were frustrated by their inability to remove Lawlor during a four-month leave of absence for addiction treatment. Lawlor is under investigation by the Illinois State Police amid allegations that he misused a county-issued credit card.

Yingling also is considering expanding the provision to include other counties.

Another provision being considered is allowing county boards to have an inspector general oversee waste, fraud and abuse of powers, he added.

Sam Yingling
David McSweeney
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