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Our View: Warm embrace for tax proposal

Published: Friday, March 7, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

Most attempts from the state Legislature to put property tax controls on local taxing bodies die an untimely death, but that’s no reason to give up.

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, and others have tried on a large scale to force caps on local tax levies in a down economy to put a stop to the maddening phenomenon of rising property taxes despite falling home values.

State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barington Hills, is again attempting to address the matter on a smaller scale, putting a one-year freeze on township property tax levies. The bill has cleared committee, although it’s hard to guess on its chance of success.

We support McSweeney’s effort and any legislative effort to curtail property taxes, which hit residents in the collar counties harder than most. It’s a small step, but a step nonetheless, so we’re hopeful that if a bill such as McSweeney’s can make in through the Legislature, perhaps others could follow.

One might ask why we need Springfield to fix this mess. We don’t, necessarily. Local taxing bodies could chose to freeze their own property tax levies, although too many don’t and instead seek the maximum levy they’re allowed under the law.

Springfield is somewhat responsible for the problem in the first place. They passed the Property Tax Limitation Law during the housing boom to keep local taxing bodies in check without the anticipation that housing prices could fall instead of rise.

Illinois also has nearly 7,000 units of local government – by far the most in the nation. If they all seek the maximum tax levy they’re allowed under current law, we’re in even bigger trouble than we’re in right now.

We hope the legislation for township property tax caps is approved mainly to show the legislature that tighter controls is something Illinois residents want and need. And that voters and taxpayers should have stronger voices in the legislature than the influence of leaders from the taxing bodies whose salaries are paid by the public.

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