Face it: Property taxes are forcing Illinoisans out of their homes

Face it: Property taxes are forcing Illinoisans out of their homes

Nearly half of respondents said they would like to leave the state, including almost two-thirds of millennials.

Pardess Mitchell is watching her community crumble.

She and her husband have lived in Lake County for 16 years. They pay more in property taxes than they do on their mortgage. The tax bill is $15,000 a year on a house they bought for $227,000 in 2013.

“They’re taxing us out of the neighborhood. They’re pushing us out. They’re pushing us out of our homes and communities,” she said. “If it continues this way we’ll have to leave.”

A Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll released Oct. 10 revealed nearly half of registered Illinois voters said they would leave the state if they could. Many have left already.

alex schmidt illinois property taxes

Take Alex Schmidt. He was born and raised in Illinois. He never thought his first child would be born a Texan.

But in May, Schmidt and his wife left Illinois for Houston. He said taxes drove them out. He couldn’t take another hike in his property tax bill: It was $12,000 on a Highland Park home.

“As soon as I had to get a property tax attorney a light bulb went off,” he said. “What am I doing?”

Outside Houston, the Schmidts live in a house 50 percent larger with a smaller property tax bill than their Illinois home. The schools are even better than what they left behind. And Texas doesn’t have an income tax. So Alex got a raise.

Illinois has a massive problem with residents leaving the state for greener pastures.

Over the last decade, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show Illinois has experienced a net loss of 290,000 working-age adults to out-migration. But many Illinois politicians refuse to acknowledge it’s a problem.

“The important thing is to figure out the ‘why,’ ” said Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Mike Madigan, in an August interview on Chicago’s AM 560. “Nobody’s ever done that kind of qualitative analysis – of the ‘why’ part.”

Now someone has.

The new Paul Simon Public Policy Institute poll didn’t just ask residents if they wanted to leave. It asked why. Of those who said they wanted to leave, 27 percent said taxes were the primary reason.

The Mitchells worry they will not be able to sell a home with such a large tax bill. They have watched neighboring properties sit on the market for years.

“It’s getting to the point where not only my family but our neighbors have to make a decision: Can we afford to have our kids play football? To do swim club?” she said. “I put money aside each month for college for my kids and we’re having to dip into that.”

In 2014, Gallup polling showed only 8 percent of Illinoisans planning to move were doing so because of taxes. That number has more than tripled, according to the most recent Paul Simon polling, despite Illinois’ income tax sunset.

Illinoisans pay among the highest property taxes in the country. It’s not surprising that some are deciding to move as a result.

Brown is still attempting to dismiss this basic fact.

“A lot of places you go, you find that the tax rates are higher or more things are taxed,” Brown told the Northwest Indiana Times this week when asked for his comments on the new polling data.

He’s dodging the question.

New research from the Illinois Policy Institute analyzes data from Illinois’ past 18 years of out-migration. During that time, Illinois households left for states where private-sector jobs growth was 339 percent higher, the per capita state debt burden was 86 percent lower and property taxes were 23 percent lower.

Illinois has an out-migration crisis. And property taxes have a lot to do with it.

If our politicians can’t recognize that basic fact (and their spokesmen won’t clue them in), is there any hope for a solution?

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