No reforms to Illinois’ high property taxes as part of $300 rebate plan

No reforms to Illinois’ high property taxes as part of $300 rebate plan

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Illinois taxpayers who own real estate are in line for up to $300 back from the state. But there are no reforms to lower the state’s property taxes, which are second highest in the nation.

The one-time payment of up to $300 for eligible taxpayers is part of the budget package enacted this week. There’s no timeline yet on when checks from the state comptroller would go out.

The tax package says every individual taxpayer who owns property that files with the Illinois Department of Revenue before Oct. 17 is eligible. The department must develop a process to claim a rebate. The overall rebates can total no more than $520 million. More funds could be certified as needed, the measure says.

After the start of the fiscal year July 1, the law says IDOR will certify to the comptroller the names of eligible taxpayers and the amounts of the rebates. The comptroller then will cut the checks.

“The amount of a rebate … shall not be included in the taxpayer’s income or resources for the purposes of determining eligibility or benefit level in any means-tested benefit program administered by a governmental entity unless required by federal law,” the law says. “Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, the rebates shall not be subject to offset by the Comptroller against any liability owed either to the State or to any unit of local government.”

While the rebate will give taxpayers back some of their money, it doesn’t address the factors that drive Illinois property taxes, which are second highest only to New Jersey.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker acknowledged more needs to be done with Illinois’ high property taxes.

“We’re gonna continue to work on that,” Pritzker said Tuesday after signing the budget. “I think that there are a lot of proposals that have been made that we ought to work on getting through.”

A sustained complaint from city halls and school districts is unfunded state mandates. Illinois resident Mark Weyermuller told the Illinois State Board of Education Wednesday the state is going the wrong way with K-12 schools, which are a substantial part of property tax bills.

“The governor signed a bill that gives a whole bunch of more sick leave to teachers, which will cost millions of dollars to local school districts,” Weyermuller said during a public comment period. “I didn’t even know how they could do something like that. Basically increasing the cost of education.”

Pritzker signed a measure earlier this month that gives paid administrative leave for COVID-related issues to school staff, but only if they’re vaccinated.

Another major driver is the local cost of state-required public safety retirement benefits. Larry Luster, who lobbied lawmakers on behalf of the city of Springfield, told the Springfield City Council Tuesday he worked with the Illinois Municipal League on the issue.

“We weren’t as successful as we wanted to be but we didn’t put ourselves in a position of where we owe more either,” Luster said. “So, we broke even with that.”

Republicans have argued for government consolidations and pension reform to lower property taxes.

Pritzker said police and fire pension fund management was consolidated several years ago.

“Already we’ve seen tens of millions of dollars in relief that’s come from that in the fire pensions and we expect that we’ll see that with police pensions over the next two years,” Pritzker said.

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