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Our View: Taxpayers lose again

Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

It’s not surprising that lawmakers in the Illinois House of Representatives defeated a bill aimed at preventing property-tax increases in years that property values are depressed.

Approving it, after all, would mean doing something that benefits the taxpayers. And taxpayers are rarely a priority when Illinois lawmakers are making decisions.

The House voted Friday against a measure that would have stopped governments subject to the tax cap from collecting inflationary increases in years their overall assessed value decreased, except by voter referendum.

The tax cap limits the annual increase taxing bodies can receive to either the rate of inflation or 5 percent, whichever is less. Local taxing bodies are entitled on this year’s property-tax bills, for instance, to a 3 percent increase over last year.

The cap was first enacted in 1991 and it was enacted by referendum in DeKalb County voters in 1999, who wanted relief from double-digit property tax increases as home values took off.

But when home values decrease, as they have for the past several years, the tax cap guarantees that taxing bodies can still collect the inflationary increase.

That has led to higher property tax rates in the past few years as home values plummeted during the recession.

Government lobbying groups that fought against the measure argued the legislation would hinder governments’ ability to keep up with rising costs and unfunded mandates. Local governments, by the way, use your tax dollars to pay their dues to these lobbying groups.

The past few years have been difficult financially for homeowners and governments alike. Both have had to make tough spending decisions. But as stewards of taxpayer dollars, governments sometimes let us down with their financial decisions.

We’d be happy to see more act like the Sycamore City Council, which decided in January to hold its property tax levy steady for the fourth consecutive year, rather than increase its property tax take.

DeKalb County is one of more than 30 Illinois counties subject to the tax-cap rules, but both of its representatives, Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) and Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon), voted no, which is disappointing.

Our representatives should remember that the tax-cap law was put in place to ease the burden on taxpayers, not saddle them with a greater tax burden during tough times.

We encourage backers of the legislation to keep fighting for taxpayers and hope our representatives will change their votes when given an opportunity.

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