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Partisan bickering threatens to derail property tax relief plan

Unless resolved, the dispute will complicate—and potentially kill—any serious effort to reduce property taxes in Illinois.

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An unusual effort to pare Illinois' much-hated property tax system appears to be dissolving amid partisan bickering, with the GOP leaders of both the House and Senate complaining that their members have been cut out of decisions made by the Legislature's Property Tax Relief Tax Force.

Unless resolved, the dispute will complicate—and potentially kill—any serious effort to reduce property taxes as voters prepare to decide in November on Gov. J.B. Pritzker's plan to impose a graduated income tax.

In separate statements, House GOP Leader Jim Durkin and Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady both asserted that preliminary findings of the task force were not properly approved by the full panel and, as Brady put it, amount to "some members . . . circulating their thoughts."

79彩票注册网址"Failure to follow proper process with task force consideration and debate of recommendations, along with a lack of many House GOP reform ideas, resulted in the House GOP co-chairs declining to endorse the draft final report," Durkin wrote in an email yesterday to his members. "The final product was not properly considered or debated by the full task force."

Rep. Sam Yingling of Round Lake, the House Democrat who was one of the task force’s co-chairs and increasingly has served as its point person, denies that.

In an email to Republicans, Yingling wrote that the draft report was based on recommendations from task force subcommittees, and the four overall task force co-chairs now will solicit comment from their caucuses before taking final action.

"In order to address the property tax crisis, everything must be on the table," wrote Yingling, who did not return phone calls. "No caucus has exclusive rights to good ideas; all input is needed. It is important we have a solid report to advance to the next phase of this endeavor, the legislative process. We look forward to the specific edits being proposed by the House Republicans."

79彩票注册网址But the GOP co-chairs of the task force, Reps. Joe Sosnowski of Rockford and Deanne Mazzochi of Elmhurst, aren’t buying it.

In their own note to Yingling and House Democratic co-chair Mary Flowers of Chicago, they wrote that while some of their ideas were discussed in subcommittee, most were rejected for the draft report. But the draft report contains the names of each of the 88 members of the full task force. And even that draft was not made available until Dec. 23, despite the fact that the task force legally was required to produce its report by Jan. 1, they said.

"Previous efforts by the General Assembly or executive branch to reform the broken property tax system through blue ribbon commissions and task forces have failed," they concluded. "Unfortunately, it appears this task force is one more example of history repeating itself."

79彩票注册网址The draft report itself is a bit of a hodgepodge, at some points speaking authoritatively and others contradicting itself.

For instance, at one point it cautions against consolidating school districts, citing "inherent political complications" and "problematic" savings. Yet it endorses consolidating elementary-only districts into joint districts with high schools.

The report does urge changes in the controversial tax-increment financing system, for instance cutting the life of TIF districts from 23 to as few as 10 years and tightening the definition of "blighted" areas that can be included. But its idea to expand the sales tax to cover more services to provide property tax relief is likely to be very controversial, and one subcommittee recommended that the use of property taxes for public schools be completely eliminated. The report does not indicate how the billions of dollars needed would be replaced.

The idea of the task force surfaced when Pritzker last spring began pushing his proposed constitutional amendment on a graduated income tax through the Legislature. The governor has argued that imposing more income taxes on higher-earning taxpayers will take pressure off of the property tax system, but his plan does not guarantee that. That has left an opening for critics to charge that Pritzker just wants to raise taxes without providing any property tax relief.

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