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It looks as though House Speaker Michael Madigan, Mayor Richard Daley, and State Senate President Emil Jones have reached a deal on a bill governing residential property taxes in Cook County.
Under Senate Bill 13, the maximum home owner's exemption for most residential property owners will rise from $20,000 to $30,000 this year. Next year it will fall to $24,000, and the year after that it will drop to $18,000. After that, the powers that be will have to reconvene to figure out what to do next.
The proposed bill, now being debated in the house, also offers a property tax break for low-income residents who have owned their houses for at least ten years. These people will have their equalized assessed value (don't ask) capped at 7 percent. This would help protect those in Woodlawn, Englewood, East Garfield Park, and other poor but gentrifying neighborhoods from getting property taxed into foreclosure or selling their homes.
If you want to read the bill, here's the link (PDF). As you can see, it's 143 pages of legislative gobbledygook that under the guise of offering home owners a break would make a complicated system even more complicated. With Madigan, Daley, and Jones behind it, the bill's almost certain to pass before the June 1 deadline. Governor Blagojevich has been privately telling legislators he might veto it because it doesn't go far enough. But after the stunning 107-0 defeat of his gross-receipts taxation plan, who knows if he'd have the guts?
Still, he may be right: the bill doesn't offer much of a break for middle-class home owners, and it doesn't help poor people in gentrifying neighborhoods who bought their property within the last ten years. And of course, the home owner's exemption does nothing for owners of commercial, industrial, or multi-unit rental properties.
Bottom line, whether it passes or not, most folks -- renters included -- are going to get hammered by August's property tax bill.