Don't call Illinois property tax "relief" a tax break

Scott ReederJournalist

Mar 31, 2014

Pat Quinn has promised us all a property tax break of $500.

Well, sorta, kinda.

Right now every Illinois homeowner already is getting a state income tax break based on the property taxes they pay.

Quinn’s plan (actually, Mike Madigan says it’s really his plan) would up the amount to $500.

So it’s not an increase of $500, it’s merely the expansion of an existing program.

But regardless of how you do the arithmetic, Quinn’s plan is more about taking from taxpayers than giving back to them.

Here’s why: In 2011 he signed a measure temporarily raising the income tax 67 percent.

That’s a lot of money. The amount of the tax hike alone is the equivalent of one week’s wages for every worker in the Land of Lincoln.

But Pat Quinn promised – crossed his heart, hoped to die, stick a finger in his eye – that the tax hike would be temporary.

I was skeptical at the time.

After all, during his last campaign for governor he promised to veto a tax hike greater than 33 percent.

But then he signed it – shortly after taking the oath of office.

Since then, an extra $27 billion has been sucked into state coffers. And every dime of it has been spent.

But during his budget address Wednesday, Quinn bragged of cutting spending.


That’s a nifty trick. Taxing more, spending more but bragging about spending less?

Perhaps what he meant is that the state has cut spending on core government services while spending more on things such as employee pensions.

But now he wants to make permanent the tax hike that he promised would be temporary.

And, he’s saying education will suffer if the tax hike isn’t made permanent.

That’s an old politician trick: find something popular in the budget and threaten to cut it unless a tax hike is passed.

The problem with that strategy is there are lots of things in the budget besides school funding.

How do we know that school funding in the budget would have to suffer?

We are being asked to take Pat Quinn’s word for it.

And while we are on the subject of education, one has to ask how the governor is measuring “education spending.”

Like so much in Springfield, it’s a political term.

The state has been pouring billions more into teacher pensions at the expense of classroom education.

Perhaps more expansive pension reform is the key to freeing up dollars for core government services, such as educating children.

But we sure didn’t hear that from the governor this week.

Rich Miller of Capitol Fax writes that the plans in Quinn’s budget address were vetted by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton in advance.

The Tax Foundation ranked Illinois 10th highest in the nation for sales tax. See why.

Homeowners in these Illinois counties pay the highest property tax in the state.

Concerned about taxes? Tell your legislators in Springfield what’s on your mind with Sound Off. It’s a handy tool that will find your lawmakers and let you send them a message — along with Gov. Pat Quinn and the four legislative leaders. Click here and try it.

Pat Quinn’s challenger, Bruce Rauner, had plenty to say about the governor’s budget address. Here’s Rauner’s reaction.

Madeleine Doubek and Matt Dietrich talk taxes in the wake of Quinn’s budget address on this edition of “Only in Illinois.”

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