FILE - Kelly Cassidy

Chicago Democratic state Rep. Kelly Cassidy speaks to a reporter at the Capitol in Springfield on May 24, 2018. 

A task force comprised of 88 state lawmakers with seven subcommittees has started meeting to discuss the complex issues that have pushed property taxes in Illinois to among the highest in the nation, but the group has faced criticism from the outset.

An Illinois state lawmaker on the Property Tax Relief Task Force called the group cumbersome and said he was skeptical that any substantive progress would be made to lower property taxes.

The Illinois Property Tax Relief Task Force was created by state law this Spring. While the Republican minority has for years been pushing for measures they have said will reduce property taxes, several Democratic Illinois House members urged for the task force’s creation this spring to support a change to the state’s flat income tax to a progressive income tax structure that would allow for higher tax rates for higher earners.

After the task force measure was crafted this Spring, the Democratic supermajority passed the progressive income tax amendment that voters will decide on the November 2020 ballot. No Republicans voted for the progressive income tax amendment. The task force measure passed a few days later unanimously.

In Illinois, property taxes fund local governments such as schools, townships and municipalities. Those units of government are subject to state policies and mandates such as local public safety pension requirements, which also factor into the state's property tax burden.

The task force met several times last week to talk about school funding and government consolidation. State Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield, said a subcommittee he’s on met Monday to discuss the state's property tax caps.

“Some counties that have no tax caps is actually holding down a little bit better,” Murphy said. “McLean County, for example, has for a period of time had increases lower than Sangamon County.”

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, said a different subcommittee she’s part of will look at the role of tax increment finance districts, or TIF districts.

“What they really mean, how they really work, the ways that they can work well and the ways that they can work counter to good policy,” Cassidy said. “I’m looking forward to being better educated and hopefully then being better equipped to make decisions on how and if and when to use TIFs in the future.”

Another meeting Thursday will again take up the issue of school funding.

Murphy said the 88-member group with seven subcommittees was too cumbersome.

“I really do think that this was a way to appease some members so they would vote for the progressive income tax – that if they voted for this they would be creating this committee – but like I say, I’m pretty skeptical as of right now.”

Cassidy said she understood the criticism.

“It is huge and so I really think it depends on what Representative Murphy and others are hoping to get out of it,” Cassidy said. “For my part, I’m hoping to become better informed and have some better foundational knowledge with which to use to develop policy moving forward.”

The task force must deliver a series of reports on how to find relief to the governor by the end of the year.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.