Property Tax Freeze Idea Gives Local Government The Chills

Sep 3, 2014

Credit Brian Mackey/WUIS

Even though your property taxes pay for local services -- not state ones -- they've become an issue in Illinois' race for governor.

Gov. Pat Quinn and his Republican opponent Bruce Rauner don't agree on much, but both clearly see a winning strategy in promising lower property taxes.

Quinn earlier this year proposed offsetting a higher income tax rate by sending homeowners (not renters) a $500 property tax rebate (though his plan didn't materialize).

Rauner wants to eventually roll back the income tax rate, but he's also promising a freeze on property taxes.

His latest ad features suburban couples holding up their tax bills, complaining that they have risen by more than $700, or $1300 dollars.

In his ad, Rauner says it's simple: "Freeze property taxes, and require voter approval for politicians to raise 'em," he says with a smile.

He hasn't said anything about how that would work, but it's anything but simple.

"Property taxes are the principle way that we fund local government, local services in Illinois, and that goes to municipal government, township government, schools, mosquito abatement districts, other special districts, fire protection districts. It's how we fund the various services," says Joe McCoy, with the Illinois Municipal League.

McCoy says many local governments would be in a world of hurt if they didn't have the option of raising property taxes.

"Any effort to put a complete cap could have very dangerous results for local governments,"McCoy says.

And under Rauner's plan, they wouldn't likely be able to go to the state for help as Rauner wants to roll back Illinois' income tax.

Gov. Quinn's campaign says that alone would either force a property tax hike, or force cuts like teacher layoffs.

Already, many municipalities are restricted in how much they can raise those tax rates without getting voters' okay.