CHICAGO -- The Illinois General Assembly adjourned for the rest of the year last Friday without taking action on two proposals that would have limited the abilities of local governments to raise revenues and issue bonds.
But backers of the so-called property tax cap measures vowed to raise them again when the legislature reconvenes next spring. The two plans were introduced in the General Assembly last month.
One plan, sponsored by Rep. Manny Hoffman, R-Homewood, would have limited annual increases in property tax collections by non-home-rule governments throughout the state to 5%, or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. It also would have required voter approval for all new bond issues backed either directly or indirectly by local property taxes.
The second plan, sponsored by Sen. Walter Dudycz, R-Chicago, contained the same revenue and bond restrictions, but would only have applied to non-home-rule governments in Cook County. However, Sen. Dudycz had vowed to attempt to amend the bill so it would cover home-rule governments, including Chicago and the Cook County Board of Commissioners.
The two proposals were modeled after the tax cap law the General Assembly passed in July that placed the same revenue and bond restrictions on most local governments in five suburban Chicago counties effective Oct. 1. The new proposals were different, however in that the restrictions would be effective upon becoming law.
The sponsors of the bills said they wanted immediate effective dates to prevent local governments from issuing bonds before the new restrictions were in place. Public finance officials said they noticed a significant increase in bond issuance by suburban Chicago governments before the tax cap law took effect Oct. 1. Reports in Chicago newspapers also described a "bond rush" by issuers trying to avoid provisions of the new law.
But neither bill made it to the floor of either the House or the Senate during the six-day fall legislative session.
Sen. Dudycz tried once to bypass the Senate committee process and get immediate consideration of his bill in hopes of passing it this fall, but the measure failed to garner the necessary three-fifths majority vote to suspend Senate rules. Rep. Hoffman said he did not try to bypass the House committee process when it became clear he could not round up the necessary three-fifths vote to achieve immediate consideration of a bill.
Leaders of the Republican minorities in both chambers who strongly backed the tax cap plans blamed the majority Democrats for not allowing votes on the issues.
"I think the voting public that supports tax caps is going to be upset with the Democratic majority and their opposition to caps," said Mark Gordon, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader James "Pate" Philip, R-Wood Dale.
Democrats claimed Republicans were only seeking political points prior to next year's elections for the House and Senate.
"There will be plenty of time to vote on tax caps next year," said Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. "We [Democrats] have much more important things to focus on right now."
He said a main priority for Democrats has been finding additional money for the Chicago Board of Education to avoid a teachers strike.
Paul Devine, vice president and manager of the Great Lakes Region at Moody's Investors Service, has said any law that restricts a government's ability to raise revenues could be a concern to the rating agency.