Harris debates property tax freeze, promotes increased bonding authority
When Rep. David Harris (R-Arlington Heights) spoke to SB521, he had the House floor's full attention.
Harris raved during floor debate Nov. 8 during the fall veto session about the measure sponsored by Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Champaign), which made an amendment to the Eastern Illinois Economic Development Act increasing the bonding authority from $250 million to $500 million for a project south of Champaign.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s got to be a mistake, there has got to be an error, there has got to be something wrong with this bill because it is bringing jobs to Illinois, and we know every job in Illinois is going to Indiana,” Harris.
Indiana, Harris said, is succeeding.
“Indiana has right-to-work, Indiana has low income taxes, Indiana has lower workers compensation,” Harris continued, with Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) at his right smiling widely at his theatrics. “Every job in the state is going to Indiana, so they can’t possibly be bringing jobs to Illinois.”
Harris then read from an early 2017 global industry analysis.
“In the seven-county Chicago region, employment dropped from $3.5 million in 2009 to under $3.2 million in 2010, but the region has gained almost 400,000 jobs since then and hit a record high of just under 360,000 last year,” Harris said.
He told his peers what SB521 will do for the state.
“It brings good paying jobs to eastern Illinois,” Harris said. “We have a state that can support those kind of jobs, we have an infrastructure that can support those kind of jobs. This bill should fly out of here with not a single no vote.”
SB521 later passed both houses and was sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Harris, however was not nearly as happy with SB851, sponsored by Rep. Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg).
SB851 would establish a two-year property tax freeze for Cook, Lake, McHenry, Kane, DuPage and Will counties. The measure would allow those counties to increase property taxes only with voter approval.
All other counties would be subject to referendums asking whether a property tax freeze should be imposed for 2018 and 2019 or that all governments within a county jurisdiction be subject to a property tax freeze over that period and to the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law for levy year 2020 and the foreseeable future.
Bryan Smith, the executive director of the Township Officials of Illinois, had sent a legislative alert to township officials about SB851, asking them to urge their state lawmakers to oppose the measure.
The issue Harris had with the bill was timing.
“It is 2:57 in the afternoon and in three minutes we are supposed to be attending our sexual harassment training,” Harris said. “Here we are dealing with a major property tax bill and we have just a few minutes to do it.”
His second issue was the proposed freeze was not long enough.
“If we are going to bite this bullet, let’s bite it for four years,” Harris said. “As supportive as I am on property tax limitations, because that is the issue all of our constituents write in and call us about most notably, I have a major concern with how it is being handled. It deserves more attention than getting at end of debate.”
The legislation passed the House but was not brought up for a vote in the Senate before the veto session ended.