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Our View: Taxpayers lose again

Published: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

It’s not surprising that House lawmakers defeated a bill aimed at preventing property-tax increases in years that property values are depressed.

Approving it, after all, would mean doing something that benefits the taxpayers. And taxpayers are rarely a priority when Illinois lawmakers are making decisions.

The House voted Friday against a measure that would have forbidden governments subject to the tax cap from collecting inflationary increases in years their overall assessed value decreased, except by voter referendum.

The tax cap limits the annual increase that taxing bodies can receive to either the rate of inflation or 5 percent, whichever is less. Local taxing bodies are entitled on this year’s property-tax bills, for instance, to a 3 percent increase over last year.

The cap was first enacted in 1991 to rein in double-digit property taxes as home values started to soar. But when home values decrease, as they have for the past several years, the tax cap guarantees that taxing bodies still can collect the inflationary increase.

That has led to high property taxes in the past few years as home values plummeted during the recession.

Government lobbying groups that fought against the measure argued that the legislation would hinder governments’ ability to keep up with rising costs and unfunded mandates. Local governments, by the way, use your tax dollars to pay their dues to these lobbying groups.

The past few years have been difficult financially for homeowners and governments alike. Both have had to make tough spending decisions. But as stewards of taxpayer dollars, governments often let us down with their financial decisions.

We’d be happy to see more act like the McHenry County Board, one of several local governments this year that voluntarily held its levy flat to reject the 3 percent increase.

McHenry County’s state representatives – Jack Franks, Mike Tryon, Barbara Wheeler, David McSweeney and Tim Schmitz – voted in favor of the bill, which we applaud.

And we encourage Franks, D-Marengo, who introduced the measure, to keep fighting for the measure.

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