Time for politicians to tackle property taxes

Illinois property taxes are excessive and hurt small businesses, property owners and residents.

Indeed, a task force created by the Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2019 acknowledged that property taxes were too high in our state. Nearly half the General Assembly asked to serve on the task force, driving home the need for swift action. Numerous recommendations were made to reduce property taxes but not enough have been implemented.

With small businesses battling workforce shortages, inflation and other economic headwinds, meaningful property tax reform is needed now. The effort to reduce property taxes should be policy-driven and nonpartisan because high property taxes impact everyone in the state. Getting a grip on property taxes and reducing that burden will provide needed relief to both businesses and residents.

Politicians can enact policies that pave the way for government consolidation as a means to control escalating property taxes. Illinois has nearly 7,000 units of government, significantly more than any other state in the nation. Legislation was previously filed that if passed, would have provided voters the power to decide whether to consolidate units of government for the purpose of reducing redundancy and property taxes. This legislation did not mandate consolidation but provided an opportunity for citizens to vote by referendum on an issue impacting their government and corresponding property taxes.

While this legislation was not passed by the General Assembly, it was referenced by the task force in their draft report. This bill should be refiled and passed in 2024 so that voters can have a voice when it comes to consolidating government to reduce property taxes.

The SBAC will also ask policymakers to enact a $2,500 tax credit to offset the rising costs of property taxes for small businesses. This proposal will not impact assessments, or the property taxes collected by governments or schools. Rather, the bill will provide relief to small businesses and property owners facing higher property taxes and frequently asked to carry more of the load.

Presently, our state spends vast amounts of money on economic incentives that go to large corporations. Providing small businesses with some measure of property tax relief will support our small businesses, help them navigate these challenging economic times and have additional funds to spend on their businesses.

Reducing property taxes will not be easy because reforms will be needed to address various aspects of the state's property tax system. However, doing nothing is not a viable option for small businesses and property owners impacted by unreasonably high property taxes.

We encourage the politicians who enthusiastically joined the task force to focus on reducing property taxes and make this a high priority in 2024. We also encourage politicians to provide relief to small businesses and property owners saddled with high property taxes during a period of high inflation and labor shortages.

• Elliot Richardson is co-founder and president of the Small Business Advocacy Council.

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