FILE - Fred Crespo

In this Monday, May 23, 2016 photo, Illinois state Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Streamwood, speaks to reporters while on the House floor during session at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.

A leading member of the Illinois Property Tax Relief Task Force said one of the outcomes could be a push to change the state’s flat income tax to one with higher rates for higher earners as a way to find relief from the state’s property taxes, which are among the highest in the nation.

Critics of the 88-member task force have said it’s too large and too cumbersome. This week alone there were four subcommittee meetings with another one scheduled for Friday afternoon.

The task force subcommittees are Assessments and Exemptions, Government Consolidation, Social and Economic Disparities, School Funding and School Property Taxes, Local Pensions, TIF Districts, and PTELL and Local Governments’ Tax Levy.

Streator Township High School Superintendent Matt Seaton told the school funding subcommittee on Thursday that additional money from the state from the updated school funding formula was helping.

“Our board is very committed to tax relief and with this new money, we are going to be able to reduce our taxes on this coming levy cycle,” Seaton said.

But Peg Agnos with the South Cooperative Organization for Public Education said state mandates are driving up costs. The state's minimum wage is set to increase twice next year.

“We’re going to see many of our employees at the local school districts, we’re going to have to raise their minimum wage,” Agnos said. “And for big districts and small districts alike you’re going to have another burden on your salary schedules when you have to start paying the [higher] minimum wage.”

Two minimum wage increases kick in next year beginning Jan. 1. Incremental increases thereafter will bring the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.

Republicans have said the task force was an effort to sell the public on a $3.4 billion tax hike through Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s progressive income tax amendment. Voters will decide what happens with the amendment at the ballot box in the November 2020 election.

State Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, is co-chairman of the task force’s school funding subcommittee. He said the progressive tax may very well be one of the outcomes the task force reports to the governor.

“We need to also factor in that we’re asking people to take a vote on the progressive income tax, and maybe there’s a tie-in with the progressive income tax and property tax relief based on the recommendations of this task force,” Crespo said in an interview. “So, I’m somewhat encouraged.”

Opponents of a progressive income tax have said it will discourage investment and have questioned how much revenue it will generate. Opponents have also said the progressive tax will eventually lead lawmakers to push higher tax rates onto the middle class. Pritzker and Democrats have said the proposed rates to go with the progressive income tax structure would mean lower taxes for more than 95 percent of taxpayers.

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.