Recreating the Repealed Personal Property Tax – Part 1

First it was Republican Governor George Ryan who decided that increasing drivers license fees was the way to finance his Illinois FIRST in 1989.

I didn’t support that bill because it took about 56% of its money from the six-county Chicago metropolitan area and proposed spending only about 43% in the area on roads.

Under the 1989 gas tax hike deal that Lake County State Rep. Bob Churchill put together, the Chicago-area had been getting 45%, so Ryan’s deal was making things worse for this area, even though population and traffic had increased since 1989.

Now, Democrat Governor Pat Quinn wants to raise license plate fees $20 more.

Being a resident of Cook County, Quinn probably never paid a personal property tax bill.

Typically, getting rid of a personal property tax bill was something one asked one’s Democratic Party precinct captain to dispense with.

“Fix” for those of you who don’t need sugar coating.

Outside of Cook County, the tax was collected.

I remember that the half-life of uncollected bills was about a year. About 90% was paid and our collection efforts cut that the delinquencies in half each year.

With lots of people having moved from Cook County, lots of personal property tax bills went unpaid when I was McHenry County Treasurer from 1966-70.

The office had a whole division (well, two or three people) who filed small claims suits in my name for any bill or combination of bills that amounted to over $25. They were located down in the basement at the back of the old courthouse.

2,500 to 3,000 suits a year.

I sued fully 25% of the households in McHenry Township. It’s a wonder I ever carried the township for state representative.

If a person tried to sell a home and they had such a small claims judgment, they could not get a clear title before paying it off.

I remember one of Democratic State Rep. Tom Hanahan’s best precinct committeemen, Frank Hromac, came in really disturbed one day several years into my term.

The McHenry County Title Company had told him he couldn’t sell his home until he paid his back personal property taxes.

I explained that was the case.

He was not happy, but paid.

He was not moving out of his McHenry Lakeland Park precinct—just from one side of the subdivision to the other. He didn’t want to give up his precinct, one that he had worked so hard.

When I ran for county treasurer, opposition to the personal property tax was one of my issues.

It resonated.

The Establishment types said a county treasurer couldn’t do anything to get rid of the personal property tax.

That took a change in state law.

There were a number of county treasurers elected in 1966 with similar ideas.

We decided the way to bring pressure on the General Assembly was to enforce the law.

I remember the Peoria County Treasurer Vic Castle went so far as to physically seize cars with unpaid personal property taxes. One day I went down to watch and ended up cowering behind a snow plow blade in an East Peoria trailer park while the police tried to get an armed man to surrender.

That convinced me I didn’t want to seize cars.

In any event, enforcement was ramped up.

Part 2 tomorrow.

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