Who Are the Real Tax And Spenders? All of the Above

Published September 24, 2008

Dear Editor:

Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan apparently blames Illinois House Speaker Madigan (D-Chicago) for higher taxes due to rising homeowner assessments, which exceeded a 7 percent cap on market value (“How Chicago’s Property Tax Increase Smacks You: Poor Areas Hit Hardest,” September 21). The Speaker passed a new “cap” lowering the homeowner exemption for the past two years of the three-year assessment cycle.

Madigan’s office responded that the real problem “is a function of a poorly run assessor’s office which bases assessments on one sale for every 10 blocks.”

Last February, Mayor Daley said the assessor should “begin an immediate correction of assessments of homes in the hardest hit neighborhoods where home values have decreased and where people can’t afford paying higher bills. Future property tax bills should be adjusted to reflect a lower home assessed value.”

The arbitrary raising of the homeowner exemption to shield homeowners from real estate taxes only shifts taxes to commercial and industrial property owners and apartment building owners. Homeowners in poor census tracts are not protected when commercial property owners bail out, leaving the tax burden to be paid by single-family residents.

The only way to truly help homeowners is something Daley, Madigan, and Houlihan cannot fathom: Decrease government spending by the state, county and city. Controlling spending will lower the costs of government, reflected in those poor neighborhoods’ real estate tax bills.

Ralph W. Conner ([email protected]) is local legislation manager at The Heartland Institute.