PEORIA — Concrete reforms to Illinois' "brutally high" property tax rates are needed to encourage growth in the Land of Lincoln, Gov. Bruce Rauner said during a visit to a Peoria real estate agent's home Wednesday.
"I hear relentlessly about how difficult it is to raise a family, to make ends meet, how difficult it is to build a business in the state of Illinois with the property tax burden we've got," Rauner said, advocating for a tax freeze of at least four years, coupled with giving local voters more control on raising or lowering tax rates.
Standing in the backyard of Realtor Pat McCarthy and his wife, Erin, Rauner described the reaction he receives when trying to lure businesses to the state — "Wow, governor, if we bought that plant or built this facility, our property taxes would be three times what they currently are" — and slammed the two-year property tax freeze that Democrats advanced in the spring legislative session as "not real."
McCarthy concurred that even for people looking to buy a home in Peoria who are moving in from areas of the country with higher home values, their joy at finding affordable real estate is "almost always overshadowed by the property tax sticker shock they receive when moving to Peoria."
Rauner's administration noted in a news release that the family's property tax bill has increased by more than $1,900 — more than one-third — since they bought their North Peoria home in 2005, which is borne out by county tax records.
The bulk of that increase came in the first three years they owned the home, with the taxes on it having gone up just over $200 — about 3 percent — since the turn of the decade, according to those same county records.
Rauner also advocated for meaningful government consolidation as another means of reducing costs on taxpayers' bills. He dismissed the recently passed Senate Bill 3 consolidation authorization measure that received vast bipartisan majorities as "really more of a headline than reality" and said that the process of letting local governments initiate consolidation would be "slow and cumbersome."
Instead, Rauner said he favors allowing citizen initiative for putting individual units of government on the chopping block.
Chris Kaergard covers politics and government. He can be reached at email@example.com or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.