Citing “trust issues” with Springfield lawmakers, many Chicago aldermen are looking for another way to help homeowners stomach higher property taxes.
More than 30 aldermen have signed their names on proposals that would give rebates to struggling taxpayers. Two members say that without the assurance of that plan B, they’ll vote no on the budget.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has long said his proposed $543 million property tax hike would come with a break for homes valued at $250,000 or less and a doubling of the homeowner’s exemption. But the mayor’s plan requires approval from state lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner, and so far it has only passed through one committee. State lawmakers won’t meet again until November, and aldermen are scheduled to cast their budget vote on October 28th.
Alderman John Arena (45) said he and his colleagues have “trust issues” with deadlocked Springfield, and that makes it tough to believe lawmakers will come through on the exemption plan.
“We’re gonna hope that they do their job, we hope they’ll do the right thing, so that Chicago can deal with this very important issue, if not, let’s do what we can within our purview,” Arena said.
Providing property tax relief through rebates is not a new idea at City Hall: Mayor Richard M. Daley started a rebate program as part of his 2010 budget. But Ald. Michele Smith (43) said as the budget vote gets closer, there is “rising sentiment in the council for a rebate program.”
Smith introduced an ordinance this week that would assist homeowners age 60 or older who have owned their homes for 18 years or more and are facing triennial assessments higher than 30 percent. Her plan is an attempt to widen another rebate plan from Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno (1) who proposed a relief program for households earning $100,000 or less a year — an announcement he made weeks before the mayor’s official budget announcement.
A third proposal from members of the Progressive Caucus would distribute funds that members say are still left over from Daley’s rebate program in 2010. One of the sponsors, Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35) said without a rebate program or final approval in Springfield on the homeowner’s exemption, he’d cast a no-vote next Wednesday. Arena is with him, calling a budget without either of those items a “deal breaker.”
Emanuel’s staff didn’t say whether the mayor would be open to including one of these rebate programs in the budget. Instead, they repeated what Emanuel and his staff have constantly said about the homeowner’s exemption: That the plan has never been contentious or controversial in Springfield before, so there is no reason it will be now.
Lauren Chooljian covers Chicago politics for WBEZ. Follow her @laurenchooljian.