Legislature should freeze property taxes during special session
The Illinois legislature failed to send a property tax freeze of any kind to Gov. Bruce Rauner's desk during its regular spring session, which ended May 31. Neither chamber even considered a permanent property tax freeze. Such inaction is inexcusable in the face of a public clamoring for relief.
The people of Illinois suffer from some of the highest taxes in the nation, with our property taxes near the very top. And they have repeatedly expressed their desire for relief, particularly from the state's property tax. Recent polling in 10 state Senate districts found people overwhelmingly support a long-term property tax freeze.
Last year, voters in eight communities across the state overwhelmingly backed a non-binding ballot question on a permanent property tax freeze -- with support topping 90 percent in most communities.
Their attitude is understandable. Illinoisans paid $28.7 billion in property taxes in 2015 -- 54 percent more than the state income tax brought in that year. And property taxes continue to skyrocket, outpacing inflation by double digits over the last 10 years. That means property taxes are going up faster than our home values and family incomes.
Is it any wonder Illinois is losing more residents than any other state in the union?
Yet the legislature stubbornly refuses to act on a permanent freeze, which would stem the ever-increasing burden our sky-high taxes are placing on homeowners and small businesses across the state.
It would also act as a brake on profligate politicians who can't seem to live within their -- in reality, our -- means. A freeze would force our most-in-the-nation local governments that are levying our highest-in-the-nation property taxes to spend no more next year than they did this year.
It's not as if a property tax freeze has no legislative support. The state House of Representatives has twice passed a permanent property tax freeze. In April 2016, a permanent freeze that applied to all non-home rule local governments passed with a bipartisan supermajority. Then in January 2017, a permanent property tax freeze applicable to all units of local government passed by an even larger margin. But neither measure received any action in the state Senate.
Since the 100th General Assembly convened in January, the only proposal to reach the floor of either chamber was a meager two-year freeze -- with numerous exemptions rendering it practically meaningless -- that the Senate passed after voting to permanently increase your state income tax by 32 percent.
Politicians know our crippling property taxes are among the highest in the nation. They know you're frustrated by your property tax bill, that it's straining your family budget. Yet they continue doing nothing to provide any relief to beleaguered Illinois homeowners.
That's unacceptable. Now that the legislature has reconvened for a special session, instead of the permanent income tax hike that Gov. Rauner appears ready to acquiesce in, it should pass a permanent property tax freeze to impose some degree of spending discipline and give overburdened Illinois taxpayers a long-overdue break.
Andrew Nelms is Illinois state director of Americans for Prosperity, a grass roots organization that advocates for limited government, lower taxes and more freedom.