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McSweeney: Illinois needs property tax relief now

Published: Sunday, July 6, 2014 5:30 a.m. CST

Home ownership carries a tremendous amount of responsibility. Maintaining a home often can be a labor of love, but it is a labor nonetheless. Here in Illinois, homeowners not only have to contend with the usual problems of home ownership such as bad appliances, leaking roofs, flooding basements and other home repair problems, but they also have to deal with the second highest property taxes in the nation.

That’s right. Illinois has the second highest property taxes in the country. Only New Jersey has higher property taxes than Illinois.

The average property taxes in Illinois are about 2.28 percent of a home’s value, while in New Jersey the average property taxes are about 2.32 percent of a home’s value. It is possible for Illinois to surpass New Jersey in the very near future.

We are overdue for property tax relief in Illinois. Unfortunately, all the talk in Springfield has revolved around the idea of raising taxes – not cutting them.

Last spring, there were proposals on the table to implement a progressive income tax increase in Illinois, create a separate tax for higher income taxpayers and make the “temporary” income tax hike of 2011 permanent.

Thankfully, the Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate were not able to push through their radical tax hike agenda last spring. However, while they were unveiling one income tax hike proposal after another, many taxpayers across Illinois were left wondering if they were going to have to sell their homes because the cost of their property tax bills just keeps going up every single year.

Homeowners need some relief and they need it soon.

Last year, I was able to push through a new law (HB 983) that will help prevent local governments from issuing bonds for bad projects that could result in higher property taxes. This is a step in the right direction. Taxpayers should not be on the hook for bad debt, but there is so much more that could be done to reduce property taxes in Illinois.

The best option would be for the Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate to get behind my legislation (HB 95) that would freeze all property tax levies for three years. Unfortunately, House Bill 95 has never even been given a hearing – let alone a vote.  I also passed a bill in the House to freeze Township General Fund property tax levies for one year, but that bill has stalled in the Senate.

Property taxes will continue to rise in Illinois if we keep ignoring the problem. Ignoring the problem is not going to make it go away. We are inching our way toward being known as the state with the highest property taxes in the nation.

There are 7,000 units of local government in Illinois, and we need to start consolidating those that are unnecessary. We cannot continue on our current path. The taxpayers of Illinois deserve some relief.

It is time for the General Assembly to listen to the concerns of our citizens and provide real property relief and prevent Illinois from becoming the state with the highest property taxes in the country.

• Rep. David McSweeney represents Illinois’ 52nd House District, which includes portions of Algonquin, Barrington Hills, Cary, Crystal Lake, Fox River Grove, Lake in the Hills and Trout Valley.

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