State House OKs property tax cap for suburban homeowners
By DAVE McKINNEY AND ANDREW MALONEY Sun-Times staff reporters February 21, 2012 5:34PM
Illinois Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock)
Updated: March 23, 2012 8:22AM
SPRINGFIELD — In a potential election-year gift to homeowners and businesses, the Illinois House Tuesday voted to block suburban governments from increasing property taxes when overall property values decline.
By a 74-39 vote, the measure sponsored by Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) moves to the Senate, where it is expected to encounter stiff resistance from teachers unions, the Illinois Municipal League and other local government advocates.
“We have an obligation to protect our middle class,” Franks told colleagues. “Nothing that we do this year will help our middle class more than passing this bill.”
The vote represented the second time Franks brought the bill before the House. In November, it drew only 34 votes, well short of the 60-vote threshold there required to pass legislation.
Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane, Kendall, McHenry and Will counties are among 39 that adhere to property tax caps, which limit overall property tax collection increases by non-home rule governments to 5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.
Chicago, which has home-rule authority, isn’t affected by tax caps.
The tax-cap law was passed in 1991 and amended to include Cook County in 1994 during a period when land values in suburbia were skyrocketing, hitting homeowners and businesses with double-digit increases each year in their property tax bills.
Under Franks’ legislation, that law would change so that schools, cities, counties and other governments could not increase their property-tax collections in any year when the assessed value of property within their boundaries dropped — unless voters approved.
The measure comes as Gov. Pat Quinn, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) all have advocated making school districts shoulder the state’s pension costs for suburban and downstate teachers and school administrators.
Opponents of Franks’ bill said it would hamstring already cash-strapped municipalities, potentially leaving them unable to provide basic services to residents.
“This could be dangerous for communities,” said Rep. Roger Eddy (R-Hutsonville), who voted against the legislation.