Lawmaker fears sour taste from 'cherry-picking' property tax relief
Illinois needs to enlarge its tax base and invest in businesses rather than "cherry-picking benefits for certain people," state Rep. Sheri Jesiel (R-Antioch) recently told the House.
Jesiel was arguing against adopting H.B. 156, a bill that would provide property tax exemptions to select property owners in Illinois. Spearheaded by state Rep. Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg), the measure would create new property tax exemptions for longtime homeowners and people with disabilities while increasing the maximum exemptions for the general homestead exemption, the senior citizens homestead exemption, and the Senior Citizen Real Estate Tax Deferral program. It would also change some aspects of the veterans homestead exemption.
“The best way to lower the tax burden for homeowners is to get commercial investment and expand our tax base,” Jesiel said. “We chip around at the edges, we fiddle around with giving exemptions – some of which are not even means-tested – that go to wealthy people who can afford to foot the bill, and we push it onto people who may or may not be able to stay in their homes. If we really want to relieve the burden, we need to relieve the burden by expanding our tax base. If this puts more of the burden on commercial properties, we’ve just blown the whole thing up.”
Jesiel echoed comments by state Rep. David Harris (R-Mount Prospect) that the exemptions will shift the property tax burden onto others and could scare away businesses.
“When you’re squeezing the balloon on one end, it’s coming out from other,” she said. “The biggest challenge here for our district is the lack of commercial investment. The effects of this bill are going to have a direct impact on who picks up the property tax tab when other people are exempted.”
Residing in Lake County near the Wisconsin border, Jesiel said she knows first-hand the costly effects of high property taxes, having witnessed businesses leaving the state. She implored the House to find an alternative.
“I urge you to reconsider [and] to go back to the table,” she said. “Let’s find ways to lower the tax burden by encouraging businesses to stay here instead of moving across the border, which they do into Wisconsin in my district, and taking their tax revenue with them. Lower the burden so that we can bring businesses back. That is not what we’re addressing. That is not what we are doing.”
She concluded that she would reluctantly vote for the bill but held out hope for a better solution.
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