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Republicans blast property tax task force report, say Democrats 'refuse to be serious'

  • Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, an Elmhurst Republican, says 26 GOP recommendations were ignored by the chairman of a state task force to reduce property taxes.

    Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, an Elmhurst Republican, says 26 GOP recommendations were ignored by the chairman of a state task force to reduce property taxes.
    Blueroomstream.org

  • House Republican Leader Jim Durkin says Democrats "refuse to be serious" about measures that could lead to lower property taxes in Illinois.

    House Republican Leader Jim Durkin says Democrats "refuse to be serious" about measures that could lead to lower property taxes in Illinois.
    Blueroomstream.org

 
By Peter Hancock
Capitol News Illinois
phancock@capitolnewsillinois.com
updated: 1/10/2020 1:40 AM

SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois House Republicans on Wednesday blasted a draft final report from the special Property Tax Relief Task Force that lawmakers formed last year. They said the panel's Democratic majority summarily rejected dozens of proposals from Republicans.

"Following the release of their draft within the last week, we once again see (House Democrats) refuse to be serious … at a time when our citizens are so desperate and wanting for change in state government," House GOP Leader Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, said during a news conference in Chicago.

The draft report has been circulating among the 88 members of the task force -- or about half of the General Assembly -- as the group prepares to issue a final report to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the legislature ahead of the start of the 2020 legislative session Jan. 28.

It calls for, among other things, having the state take over a greater share of funding responsibility for public schools, consolidating potentially hundreds of elementary school and high school districts into full K-12 "unit" districts, and extending the state sales tax to various services that aren't currently taxed to raise state revenue that could be used to lower local property taxes.

Among the Republican proposals not discussed in the draft report, according to GOP Rep. Deanne Mazzochi of Elmhurst, was cutting pension benefits for new employees of local governments and school districts and capping pensions for school administrators.

"We propose capping administrator pensions so that they can't exceed the average household income in the state of Illinois, because administrative pensions are going absolutely crazy and driving costs up," she said. "None of these were up for debate or up for consideration."

In a separate interview, Rep. Sam Yingling, a Grayslake Democrat who served as one of the co-chairs of the task force, said Illinois did reduce pension benefits for new employees in 2010 when it adopted the so-called Tier 2 pension plan. But he added federal law requires that in workplaces that offer pensions in lieu of Social Security, the benefits must be at least as generous as what Social Security provides.

He also noted the state now offers the option of opting out of the pension plan in favor of a 401(k)-style savings plan.

In response to the charge that House Republican ideas weren't considered, Yingling said the draft was sent to all four legislative caucuses -- Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate -- for their suggested edits, but House Republicans so far have not responded.