Politicians must focus on reducing property taxes in 2022

The holiday season is upon us and while the COVID-19 pandemic stubbornly persists, we must look with hope and optimism toward 2022.

Illinois has been provided tremendous resources by the federal government to foster economic growth in the wake of the pandemic. The Small Business Advisory Council and our partners have formulated an agenda that recommends using portions of those resources to support local businesses, bring people back into the workforce and foster the recovery of local communities.

The right policies can help our economy rebound from the pandemic. However, policymakers must also make structural changes to significantly improve the fiscal condition of our state.

Property taxes are a huge burden on Illinois residents and small businesses. Politicians on both sides of the aisle understand they are oppressive and drive people out of Illinois. Politicians throughout the state, and all levels of government, acknowledge that solutions must be put forth and moved forward to stabilize property taxes.

Legislation was filed this year that gives voters the power to decide whether to consolidate units of government for the purpose of reducing property taxes. This bill would provide voters the opportunity to consolidate governmental units and reduce redundancy. This would not be a mandate but rather an opportunity for citizens to vote by referendum on an issue impacting their property taxes.

Another piece of legislation filed this past year compelled local units of government to form committees within one year, and every 10 years thereafter, to analyze the efficiencies of consolidating with another governmental unit, municipality or county. These committees would then be tasked with making recommendations that include analysis on the prospects for consolidating units of government.

Even though Illinois has more units of government than any other state in the nation, neither of these bills on local government consolidation were passed in the General Assembly's 2021 legislative sessions.

Policymakers have also been engaged in the debate around local school district consolidation. Legislation was filed this year to provide citizens the opportunity to vote on school district consolidation. Again, the legislation did not create a mandate but rather a choice for voters to impact their property taxes through consolidation. This legislation was not passed out of the Illinois House.

Every policymaker in Springfield should be dedicated to exploring and passing reforms that will stabilize and reduce Illinois property taxes. Despite the failure of Illinois politicians to pass these bills, property taxes are squarely on the radar of policymakers from both political parties. Lower property taxes will keep people in Illinois and help our economy prosper.

This should not be partisan issue that is put on the proverbial back burner. This is the time for constituents across Illinois to engage their legislators on property tax reform and other structural changes that will improve our economy.

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

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