Legislative Update: May 15, 2017

Property tax bills have landed in mailboxes. Every year, without fail, the taxes increase. Yes, sometimes, you’ll see a freeze in the levy of one unit of government or another, but the total always goes up.

When you compare the median property tax burden in Lombard versus median household income, property taxes come to between 8%-10% of the average household’s take home pay. And of course, the concept of “take home pay” only applies if you have a job: for folks who are retired or unemployed, there’s no comparison. The property tax burden is just massive.

For nearly all of us who live in the suburbs of Chicago, property taxes are the highest state taxes we pay. And we’re not a small group: roughly 5.5 million of us live in the suburbs—over 40% of the entire population of Illinois.

In Springfield, few want to grapple with the heavy burden of property taxes. People prefer debating the state income tax rate: whether it should stay at the current 3.75% or move closer to 5%. But while they’re arguing over quarter-points in the income tax rate, to support ever-expanding state spending, folks are being taxed out of their homes.

Recently, I was talking with a legislator whose district borders Wisconsin. That district has suffered dearly from the suburban property tax crisis. In fact, that legislator’s own sister, child, and neighbors, all longtime Illinoisans, have just closed sales on homes in Wisconsin. While each person had a different list of reasons to leave, the number one reason on every list was property taxes. There are similar stories in our area and across Chicagoland.

But there is some measure of hope. The governor has demanded a property tax freeze as part of recent negotiations, and it appears that, if a real vote were allowed, a majority of legislators would support a freeze. We think the votes are there, because over the past couple years, Speaker Mike Madigan has scheduled almost 20 separate House votes on bills to freeze property taxes. While most of these votes were successful, not one of the bills was actually intended to be considered by the Senate, much less reach the governor’s desk. These were “show votes,” meant to provide political cover for vulnerable representatives, all while property taxes continue to rise unabated back in their districts.

While a freeze will save homeowners from increases in the short-term, the only way to get property taxes down in the long term is significant reform to the way we deliver services locally. For instance, there are over 150 unfunded mandates from Springfield that drive up costs in our local school districts—and every mandate requires additional administrators to oversee compliance, both in our local districts and inside the state government. In fact, some of these mandates only apply to our school districts and not to the Chicago Public Schools, but there’s still heavy resistance to giving our districts the same flexibility under state law.

There are just three weeks to go until the May 31 end of this year’s legislative session. I’ll keep working for three things: 1) a realistic balanced budget, 2) pro-business and pro-job reforms, and 3) tax relief. The alternative—more deficit spending, more families and businesses leaving, and ever higher taxes—is unthinkable.

House Begins Taking Action on Senate Bills
This last week, members of the House of Representatives began reviewing the 225 Senate Bills that were properly approved in that chamber and have now moved over to the House for consideration. Similarly, members of the Senate are now beginning to deliberate on House Bills that were approved prior to our April 28 deadline. Because the first step for all bills is a thorough vetting before a substantive committee, last week we spent most of our time hearing bills at the committee level.

In all, I successfully sent six of my own House Bills to the Senate for consideration. In addition to those bills, I will now be serving as the Chief House Sponsor of nine Senate Bills. They include:
  • SB 587: Exempts religious organizations from paying a hotel operators’ occupation tax.
  • SB 1249: Amends the Uniform Penalty and Interest Act to decrease the failure to pay a penalty from 20% to 15%. Also provides the penalty will be abated in certain situations.
  • SB 1321: Changes the name of the offense of traveling to meet a minor to traveling to meet a child to conform with the definition of "child" in related sex offenses.
  • SB 1409: Expands venue for the offense of financial exploitation of an elderly person or a person with a disability and provides that theft by deception from a person with a disability is a Class 2 felony. It also prohibits sealing of offenses where someone is convicted of certain financial crimes against the elderly and eliminates the “consent” defense if the defendant knew the elderly or disabled person lacked the capacity to consent.
  • SB 1420: Provides that a collection center that collects cooking grease or cooking oil and is exempt from paying federal income taxes is also exempt from paying registration and licensure fees. 
  • SB 1422: Requires courts to regard questions regarding the applicability of an exception to the statute of limitations in the same manner they consider questions regarding proper venue or any other challenges to a charging document.
  • SB 1605: Helps prevent zoning petitioners from withholding evidence during a zoning hearing.
  • SB 1887: Amends the Property Tax Code to provide that taxpayers who become residents of a Supportive Living Facility after being awarded a certain homestead exemption, can still receive the exemption in certain instances.
  • SB 2066: Provides that the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's catalog of state mandates shall also include a statewide cost of compliance estimate.
Breen Visits with Local Boy Scout Troop
I recently met with Scouts from Lombard’s Troop #51, and we had a nice conversation about the Constitution and the duties of American citizenship. It was a pleasure to help these young men work toward the completion of badge requirements.



Breen Launches Third Annual Summer Reading Program
With summer vacation from school just a few short weeks away, this summer I will once again be hosting my summer reading program for children in grades Pre-K-5 who live in the 48th Legislative House District. Through my Summer Reading Safari program, those who achieve the summer reading goal of reading eight or more books will be invited to attend a fall reading celebration party where they will receive a certificate in recognition of their accomplishment and other treats. Some local and private schools will send the program brochure home in backpacks while others will post program information on their web sites. Brochures are also available at my office at 929 S. Main Street, Suite 101-A, in Lombard, and at the following libraries:
  • Downers Grove: 1050 Curtiss Street, Downers Grove
  • Glen Ellyn: 400 Duane Street, Glen Ellyn
  • Wheaton: 225 N. Cross Street, Wheaton
  • Lombard’s Helen Plum Memorial Library: 110 W. Maple Street, Lombard
  • Lisle: 777 Front Street, Lisle
  • Oak Brook: 600 Oak Brook Road, Oak Brook
  • Villa Park: 305 S. Ardmore Avenue, Villa Park
For more information or to register your child/children in this program, please call my office at (630) 403-8135, or visit reppeterbreen.org and click the Summer Reading Safari icon.

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