WBEZ | property tax http://www.wbez.org/tags/property-tax Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Quinn signs Chicago pension bill as Emanuel backs off property tax hike http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-signs-chicago-pension-bill-emanuel-backs-property-tax-hike-110306 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Pat-Quinn-AP-Seth-Perlman-(1).jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated at 5:15 p.m.</em></p><p>Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a controversial overhaul of two Chicago pension systems into law on Monday, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed he wouldn&#39;t raise property taxes for at least a year to pay for the pension changes.</p><p>Those changes, which were pushed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and approved by state lawmakers in April, would scale back retirement benefits and requite City Hall to pump more money into the troubled pension funds for laborers and municipal workers. The municipal fund is projected to have only 37 percent of the money it will need in the future, while fund for laborers will have just over half the money it will need.</p><p>To bolster the two ailing pension funds, Emanuel had been pushing to raise Chicago property taxes by $50 million a year, netting the city $750 million dollars in new revenue over a five-year phase-in period. Emanuel backed off that plan after Quinn signed the bill on Monday.</p><p>In a statement released after Monday&#39;s bill signing, Quinn reiterated his disdain for that approach.</p><p>&quot;I strongly urge the Mayor and City Council to follow our lead and identify a comprehensive, balanced solution to Chicago&#39;s pension crisis,&quot; Quinn wrote, referring to a recent overhaul of the state&#39;s pension systems. &quot;Chicago&#39;s finances can and should be set on the track to long-term stability in a way that does not hit homeowners the hardest.&quot;</p><p>In a phone interview with WBEZ minutes after the governor&#39;s office announced he&#39;d signed the bill, Emanuel suggested the city could raise its monthly telephone tax to free up more money for pensions.</p><p>&quot;It gives us the opportunity now to take property taxes off the table for the first year,&quot; Emanuel said.</p><p>On Friday, Quinn signed a law that will allow Chicago to increase its monthly telephone tax from the current $2.50 to $3.90, which some speculated could be used to pay for pensions. The new revenue must fund the city&#39;s 911 call system, but a hike would also make more money available for the higher city pension contributions required by the new law.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re gonna find a lot of efficiences and savings,&quot; Emanuel said. &quot;We now have a year to see alternatives, and we have the breathing room now to do that, which we secured.&quot;</p><p>The mayor would not say how he&#39;d pay for higher pension costs after next year, nor did he outline any fix for the ailing pension funds for police, firefighters and Chicago teachers. But the new tack relieves him of having to convince aldermen to raise property taxes, just months before the citywide elections in February 2015. It also gets Quinn out of a political pickle.</p><p>Easing the property tax burden on Illinoisans has been a pillar of the governor&rsquo;s 2015 state budget proposal. Signing the bill would have opened up the governor to more attacks from his Republican gubernatorial challenger, Bruce Rauner, who <a href="http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/robo-calls-raise-rauner-rahm-rift/tue-04222014-613pm">has already argued</a> that Quinn would be paving the way for a tax increase with his signature.</p><p>The mayor&#39;s administration says the pension bill signed Monday would solve about half of Chicago&rsquo;s roughly $20 billion public pension problem, largely by cutting back benefits for current and future retirees. But it could take decades for those penison funds to become healthy again.</p><p>More than 22,000 retirees would lose their 3 percent compounding annual benefit increase. Instead, retirees would see their pension checks increase at a flat 3 percent or half the rate of inflation, whichever is less. And all but the poorest workers would receive no increase at all in 2017, 2019 and 2025.</p><p>That means, under the bill&rsquo;s provisions, a retiree with a $35,500 annual pension would see their benefit grow to nearly $40,000 by 2025, according to a WBEZ analysis. But under the current system, their pension would be about $49,000 by that time.</p><p>More than 34,000 current city workers would have to pay more into the pension systems, but get less out of it once they retire. By 2019, workers would be paying 11 percent of each paycheck toward retirement, compared to the current 8.5 percent. That contribution rate would drop to 9.75 percent once the pension funds are healthy, which could take decades.</p><p>City Hall would also pay more. The bill would finally do away with the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/experts-say-chicago-has-public-pension-system-set-fail-109329">anachronistic funding formula</a> Chicago has used for decades to calculate its annual pension contributions, which is a primary cause of the current underfunding crisis. And if future politicians try to skimp on payments, the pension funds will be empowered to take City Hall to court, while the state could begin intercepting the city&rsquo;s share of state money.</p><p>Meanwhile, a coalition of powerful city workers&#39; unions released a statement late Monday slamming the governor&#39;s action because they believe the bill violates a part of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ilga.gov/commission/lrb/con13.htm">Illinois Constitution</a>&nbsp;that says pension benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or impaired.&rdquo;</p><p>&quot;Unfortunately, some elected officials have chosen to ignore the constitution...opting instead to slash the retirement life savings of our city&#39;s public health professionals, teachers&#39; aides, librarians, cafeteria workers, and other public employees and retirees,&quot; the statement reads. &quot;The Mayor&#39;s plan is unfair and unconstitutional, and our unions intend to seek justice and will be preparing to file suit.&quot;</p><p>Gov. Quinn has talked about the Chicago pension plan in the context of a tax system that he says allows municipalities and local governments to rely too much on property tax rates to pay their bills.</p><p>&ldquo;The property tax is not based on ability to pay,&rdquo; Quinn told an audience of civic and political leaders earlier this year. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re using a 19th century property tax system to fund the most important part of the 21st century: educating our students.&rdquo;</p><p>Quinn&rsquo;s Republican opponent in the November gubernatorial election, Bruce Rauner, has said he would veto the bill because of the calls for higher property taxes on Chicago residents. Rauner even went so far as to release automated phone calls, urging residents to call their state representative or senator to vote against the bill while it was being debated in Springfield.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe"><em>Alex Keefe</em></a><em> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics"><em>Twitter</em></a><em> and </em><a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028"><em>Google+</em></a><em>.</em></p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics. Follow him </em><a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold"><em>@tonyjarnold</em></a><em>.</em></p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 09 Jun 2014 10:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-signs-chicago-pension-bill-emanuel-backs-property-tax-hike-110306 Activists say property tax for hospitals sends message on accountability http://www.wbez.org/story/activists-say-property-tax-hospitals-sends-message-accountability-90717 <p><p>A coalition of activist groups in Illinois say they support the state's decision to deny tax exemptions for three non-profit hospitals.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Revenue ruled yesterday that Northwestern's Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago, Edward Hospital in Naperville and Decatur Memorial Hospital in Decatur weren't meeting charity care levels required for property tax exemptions</p><p>Hannah Gelder, spokeswoman for the Fair Care Coalition, said it's not that activists wants hospitals in Illinois to lose money, they want hospitals to be held accountable.<br> <br> "We don't have an opinion one way or another--we want to protect our hospitals so we believe it's okay for them to get property tax breaks, so long as they're acting as a charitable institution," Gelder said. "The problem we see in our communities is that many of the hospitals aren't actually pulling their weight in terms of providing free and reduced price care to people who are uninsured."<br> <br> All three hospitals have come out against the ruling. In a statement, Northwestern's Prentice Women's Hospital said it had been kept in the dark about the decision. "We disagree with the Department of Revenue's decision to deny Northwestern's Prentice Women Hospital its property tax exemption and do not know the criteria for the ruling.&nbsp; Given today's ruling, we will begin a process to review all of our options," it said.</p><p>For State Senator Iris Martinez, the ruling is evidence that lawmakers need to come together to provide legal means of accountability for non-profit hospitals. She's calling for a public hearing in hopes that government members and hospital representatives can come up with a solution.</p><p>Martinez introduced a bill early this year that would require all non-profit hospitals to give 3.5 percent of their revenue toward charity care. It has been in committee since March.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 17 Aug 2011 20:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/activists-say-property-tax-hospitals-sends-message-accountability-90717 Three Illinois hospitals may lose tax-exempt status http://www.wbez.org/story/three-illinois-hospitals-may-lose-tax-exempt-status-90677 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/archives/images/cityroom/848_20090330g_large.png" alt="" /><p><p>The Illinois Department of Revenue announced Tuesday that three Illinois hospitals are in danger of losing their tax-exempt status. They are Northwestern Memorial's Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago, Edward Hospital in Naperville and Decatur Memorial Hospital in Decatur.</p><p>The department's ruling comes during an ongoing battle in Illinois over the tax-exempt status of hospitals. An Illinois Supreme Court case from 1968 established five criteria that hospitals have to meet to qualify as "charities."&nbsp;</p><p>Illinois Department of Revenue spokeswoman Susan Hofer says they are: "a charity may not have stock, capital or shareholders; a charity derives its funds mainly from private and public charities; a charity dispenses charity to all who need it and those who apply for it; a charity does not provide gain or profit in a private sense to any person connected with it; a charity places no obstacles in the way of those who need and would avail themselves of that charity."</p><p>If hospitals meet those criteria, the institutions become exempt from taxes on all their property, including everything from hospital rooms, to gift shops, to parking lots. Last year the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that downstate Provena Hospital didn't qualify, and therefore had to start paying property tax.</p><p>The Illinois Department of Revenue now uses the Provena ruling, alongside the 1968 criteria, as a kind of precedent to guide decisions on charity qualifications. The department doesn't have jurisdiction to investigate every hospital, however. Instead, it can only review hospitals that enter their administrative system when a parcel of a hospital changes ownership or changes use.</p><p>Mark Deaton, General Counsel of the Illinois Hospital Association, said decision makers are interpreting the court's definition of charity far too narrowly. He said if more hospitals lose their status and have to pay property taxes, it would be a serious blow to patients and the growing health care sector -- a sector he &nbsp;calls "one of the few bright spots in the Illinois economy."</p><p>Deaton said patient care could be compromised if more hospitals are forced to pay property taxes.&nbsp;</p><p>"[That] could push hospitals into having to cut back, slow down modernization, slow down hiring, slow down plans to expand services," he said.</p><p>The three hospitals being denied tax exempt status have 60 days to ask an administrative judge to review the decision. Illinois Department of Revenue spokeswoman Susan Hofer says her agency is reviewing the charity status of between ten and 15 additional hospitals.</p></p> Tue, 16 Aug 2011 21:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/three-illinois-hospitals-may-lose-tax-exempt-status-90677 Examining the history of tax protests http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-18/examining-history-tax-protests-85324 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-April/2011-04-18/Chicago Tea Party Tax Day.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Tax Day protests are nothing new. From tea to whiskey to war, Americans have long voiced their dissent by opting to keep their tax dollars right in their pockets. But are tax protests effective? And how much do they connect to flaws in our tax policy? To answer these questions, <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> turned to <a href="http://harrisschool.uchicago.edu/faculty/web-pages/christopher-berry.asp" target="_blank">Christopher Berry</a> from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.</p><p>Berry says taxes are an easier target for individuals than identifying specific spending cuts. Listen to the story to hear all of his remarks.</p><p><em>Duane Eddy, "Rebel 'Rouser", from the CD Greatest Hits, (Camden International)</em></p></p> Mon, 18 Apr 2011 13:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-18/examining-history-tax-protests-85324