Cook County voters face 2 property tax hike proposals

Cook County voters face 2 property tax hike proposals

Both forest preserve leaders and government unions are asking Cook County voters for more property taxes on Nov. 8.

Voters in Cook County face two ballot questions involving higher property taxes: one seeking $20 a year on average for forest preserve land and pensions, the other boosting government union power at a likely average cost of at least $2,933 during the next four years.

Cook County Forest Preserve leaders are asking voters for a $42 million property tax hike for revenue to improve the preserves including acquiring 3,000 acres, restoring 20,000 acres and for employee pensions.

Although listed low on the stated priorities, pensions take up the largest portion of the forest preserve budget at 21%, or $9.3 million dollars. The Cook County forest preserve pension system faces a roughly $10 million shortfall annually.

The Forest Preserve District fund, which supports 538 retirees, is only 59.1% funded and set to become insolvent in 2041.

Instead of tax hikes, Cook County Forest Preserve leaders could support a statewide ballot question that institutes a hold-harmless pension reform by changing the Illinois Constitution. State lawmakers last tried to fix pensions in 2013, an effort that ended with the Illinois Supreme Court ruling nothing short of an amendment would allow state pension changes.

The second and larger proposed tax hike for statewide voters will come in the form of a proposal at the top of the ballot to change the Illinois Constitution. The “Proposed Amendment to the 1970 Illinois Constitution” is also known as Amendment 1, but government union bosses are calling it the “Worker’s Rights Amendment.”

Amendment 1 promises to both hike property taxes and make it harder to fix the public pension crisis in Illinois by strengthening those government unions with special privileges.

That’s because Amendment 1 inserts language into the state constitution which will:

  • Lead to higher property taxes in Illinois, with the increase conservatively estimated at $2,933 for the typical Cook County household. This estimate is based on the long-run average growth rate of property tax bills. But Amendment 1 would likely accelerate that growth, expanding the bargaining power of government union bosses to negotiate over a near endless array of subjects, ultimately forcing residents to pay the bill for costly contract concessions that carry more weight than state law.
  • Worsen Illinois’ reputation as one of the most unfriendly states in the nation for small businesses.
  • Prevent reforms and potentially overturn more than 350 existing Illinois laws.
  • Grant government union bosses more power than those in any other state.

Illinoisans already pay the second-highest property taxes in the nation, and high property taxes are a major reason taxpayers are fleeing to lower-tax states. Cook County voters need to decide before Nov. 8 whether their tax bills are high enough, or whether those bills should be higher.

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