Jack Franks Hits a Taxeater Nerve

Daily SouthtownStar column by Phil Kadner about Jack Franks’ bill to freeze the amount of real estate taxes that schools and other tax districts can get in a declining real estate marker.

It was the late 1960’s or early 1970’s when I heard or read State Rep. CL McCormick of Vienna coin the word “taxeater.”

I think it was when WBBM was running an evening Illinois House session live.

I admit to being enamored with what I heard. I’m sure it inspired me to run for state representative in 1972.

In any event, the word “taxeater” was so descriptive that it entered my vocabulary.

Even though it has applied to me most of my working life.

And still does, since I receive a generous legislative pension.

I wonder if you are ready to adopt the description of those supporters of tax hikes I first heard from St. Rep. CL McCormick (Paul Powell’s Republican colleague in the old 3-member districts)?

He called them “taxeaters.”

Of course, as a public pensioner and an ex-st rep., I was, too.

But “taxeater” or “taxeater’s friend” certainly fits our local government officials.

They successfully lobbyed Illinois House members to kill Franks’ House Bill 3793.  (34-73-5 vote roll call here.)

State Rep. Jack Franks’ bill to freeze property tax extensions has proven local tax district officials are “taxeaters” without a shadow of a doubt.

And perhaps most of our state legislators began as local officials.

SouthtownStar columnist Phil Kadner doesn’t use the term “taxeater,” but his piece on Franks’ bill has lots of sparks.

How about a short course in what Franks has proposed.

The key is to the property tax system is the extension.

Not the assessment.

Not the tax rate.

What’s important is the amount of taxes the County Clerk tells the County Treasurer to collect.  (Your share of the total assessment tells your share of that total.)

I’ll bet no one can find one tax district whose levy for this coming year is not at least as much more than last year’s extension, plus the increase allowed by the Real Estate Tax Cap law, that is, last year’s extension, plus the CPI.

Inflationary increases allowed by the Tax Cap bill since the bill took effect.  Click to enlarge.

The inflationary increase allowed this year is 1.5%.

There will be a very, very short list of local governments who don’t grab for everything they can get.

Because real estate inflation greatly exceeded the increase in the CPI over the years since the Tax Cap took effect, tax rates were forced down.

(Remember all the self-laudatory press releases about how this district or that district lowered its tax rate? Meaningless, of course, since the taxes extended were what really mattered, and they kept going up, but a lot of reporters accepted the claims as being newsworthy.)

That means most, if not all, non-Home Rule tax districts have rates below their statutory minimum.

And, that, in turn, means when a tax district asks for last year’s tax extension (that is, pretty much the amount it received), plus the CPI increase allowed by PTELL (the name the technocrats give the Property Tax Cap), the County Clerk will just raise its rates to give the school or other tax district the extra money requested.

It matters not at all that assessments have decreased.

A bit complicated, but freezing the extension was what Jack’s bill was all about.

And, he has the right target.

The ignorant in the General Assembly claimed that the change would impede tax growth when the market turns around.

That is nonsense, of course.

When the real estate prices start climbing, taxes will be allowed to increase by as much as the Consumer Price Index goes up.

Related to this discussion is my advice to McHenry County Board members.  The Board seems poised to hike its taxes next year to the maximum amount allowed by law.

This article is about what Board members (and any other tax district officials who are really on the taxpayers’ side) could do to keep taxes pretty much constant:

No Financial Diet for McHenry County Next Year + The Tax Levy Game

Those that don’t deserve to be called “taxeaters” because their demonstrated goal will have been show to maximum the amount of money that can be extracted from homeowners’ pockets.

They are following the advice of Louis XIV’s Exchequer:

“The art of taxation is like plucking a goose: to get the most feathers with the least amount of hissing.”

Not the original “taxeater,” but certainly a role model.

= = = = =

Some have suggested that Franks was just searching for headlines by promoting the bill.  I lean in that direction.

A lot of his colleagues apparently believe the same thing.  Consider this from the Daily Herald story on the bill’s defeat:

“Franks was ribbed by other lawmakers who accused him of grandstanding over the issue.

“’It was almost like a press conference you were holding,’ said Rep. Roger Eddy, a Republican from downstate Hutsonville.”

State Rep. Roger Eddy is a double-dipping taxeater. Not only is he a state representative. In his day job, he is a school superintendent.


Jack Franks Hits a Taxeater Nerve — 2 Comments

  1. Aren’t all politicians “taxeaters” by definition? Here a junket, there a pension perk – never mind the retirement nest egg they make prior to sitting at the taxpayer’s table, wearing a bib. I’m sure Franks did well for himself practicing law. More trips to Cuba enjoying a cigar on the taxpayers dime.

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