Property tax freeze goes on hold

By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — Debate got testy again on the floor of the Illinois House Friday as representatives considered a property tax freeze measure sponsored by Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo).

In the end, the measure — an amendment to House Bill 695 — gathered 37 votes, enough to pass the amendment but fewer than the 60 votes it would take to move legislation from the House. The bill remains alive but on hold.

Republicans decried the measure as flawed and said the fact that it was being debated in amendment form and not as a piece of legislation ready to move forward showed Democrats were just grandstanding.

Franks disagreed, saying he’d been trying to get such bills onto the floor for years and only the election of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has repeatedly called for property tax freezes, was letting him move forward now.

“This is not a partisan issue,” Franks said. And if the language was not exactly as the governor might submit, “so what? It’s still a great bill that is desperately needed.”

The GOP did not agree with the “great bill” part, saying Frank’s proposal had substantive holes and made for better campaign material than law.

“It is a disservice to sit here in the House and tell people you’re freezing taxes when (local government) debt load is outside” the reach of the legislation, said Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton).

Franks responded that his proposal was on point and even nearly identical to the language Gov. Rauner has discussed in his “Turnaround Illinois” agenda.

“Why don’t you guys do something on property taxes, which you all campaigned on?” Franks asked Republicans. “Here’s your opportunity to make the rhetoric match the reality.”

Rep. David Harris (R-Arlington Heights) said the need for property tax reform is real and broad, whereas Franks bill wasn’t.

“I’d bet this bill never gets to third reading,”  Harris said. He instead argued for a broad-scale set of actions, such as the governor is advocating.

Franks said with only a couple weeks left in the scheduled legislative session, he was tired of closed-door meetings and “a grand bargain that might never happen.”

The issue deserved debate and a vote in public, and the the floor of the House was just the place, Franks said.

After that debate and vote, Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downer’s Grove, tried to get his own property tax relief bill released from committee and before the full House, but his motion was ruled out of order.

Sandack criticized Democrats, saying leaders from that side of the aisle were choking off debate on a “real tax freeze bill.”  He maintained those leaders ”don’t want a sunshine vote on a real bill … no way, no how.”

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