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Senate approves two-year property tax freeze

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Senate Democrats today carried two measures enacting a two-year property tax freeze on school districts and local governments. A property tax freeze is one of the reforms Gov. Bruce Rauner demands before he will sign a balanced budget.

“Now that the Senate has met all of Gov. Rauner’s demands for reform, I look forward to him signing the budget that we balanced for him so that we can all work together to move the state forward,” said Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat.

SB 482 is a two-year property tax freeze for local government. Its companion, SB 484, is a two-year property tax freeze for school districts. The legislation also creates eligibility requirements for the exemption.

Despite Gov. Rauner’s insistence on a property tax freeze, Republicans were reluctant to vote for the measures today. Senator Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat, spoke in support of the freeze on the floor and criticized the lack of bipartisan support.

“We voted for property tax relief last week, and only two Republican senators supported the measure. We voted on a Republican budget plan, and the Republicans wouldn’t support it. Today, we again voted for property tax relief, and only three Republicans supported it,” Bush said. “The Senate Republicans have shown time and again that they aren’t even brave enough to vote for their own ideas. It’s absurd,”

It was up to Senate Democrats to provide the votes needed to approve potential relief for homeowners.

“This is another step the Senate has taken to make a serious attempt to end the impasse by passing a balanced budget and significant reforms that protect working families,” said Senator Bill Cunningham, a Chicago Democrat.

“Let me be perfectly clear: the way to bring down Illinois’ skyrocketing property taxes isn’t a freeze that ties the hands of school districts and village halls," said Senator Don Harmon of Oak Park. "We need to adopt a fair income tax system in which people with lower incomes pay lower income taxes rates and people with higher incomes pay higher tax rates. Then we need the state to live up to its obligation to fund schools so that they aren’t so heavily reliant upon local property taxes."

Other Senate Democrats reacted to the property tax freeze winning Senate approval:

“This is a reform that many throughout the state want and is one that can help real people,” Senator Terry Link of Vernon Hills said. “This is another step in the right direction towards achieving a balanced budget with some significant reforms to change the way Illinois does business.

“We have to find a balance between local governments providing necessary services and providing some relief to the taxpayer. This plan can start the conversation on how to give homeowners relief, while examining how to permanently find property tax relief,” said State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, a Shorewood Democrat.

“Today’s vote to freeze property taxes was an important step in bringing property tax relief to the people of Illinois. The people of Illinois expect their government to do its job and pass a budget and reforms that increase the quality of life. This freeze is one of those crucial reforms that will move Illinois forward and end this budget impasse,” said Senator Scott Bennett, a Champaign Democrat.

“The number one complaint I hear from my constituents is the skyrocketing property taxes are forcing them out of their homes, and they have requested action by the legislature to stop this trend,” said Senator Laura Murphy of Des Plaines. “Today, I am proud to stand with my colleagues, and even some Republicans, who supported freezing property taxes. This bill is a start to long overdue property tax relief to homeowners in the Northwest suburbs.”

“It is important that we offer the people of Illinois some tax relief in such difficult financial times. As a homeowner in this community, I have seen my own property taxes rise at an unsustainable rate.,” said Senator Linda Holmes, an Aurora Democrat. “This plan would institute two years of property tax relief to help make Illinois more affordable for property owners and ensure a good deal for taxpayers.”

“I know that the people of Illinois are suffering under the highest property tax rates in the country,” Senator Steve Stadelman of Rockford said. “While a permanent tax freeze would be detrimental to the school districts that rely on the property tax, I am hopeful this freeze will provide some relief while making sure underserved school districts are not harmed.”