Pat Quinn and Legislators Kill Senior Citizen Tax Relief

The 40-year old program to subsidize low-income senior citizens’ property taxes and rent equivalents was axed by Governor Pat Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly this year.

The law is still on the books, but, as they say in the movies, the contents are on the cutting room floor.

The bill was originally passed using money from the new 2 1/2% income tax by Governor Richard Ogilvie.

As I was running for State Representative for the first time in 1972, I could recognize a good program and a good issue when I saw one.

In his campaign, Ogilvie was running ad of a senior couple getting into a Model T Ford.

As they drove off, one could see an Ogilvie re-election sticker on the metal bumper.

After taking office, I noted that the Circuit Breaker has been budgeted $28 million and all of it had not been spent.  I assume lots of seniors and disable persons did not know about the program, so did not apply for benefits.

The Advisory Committee on Intergovernmental Relations, a U.S. government agency since abolished, figured out what percentage of people’s income in each state went for property taxes.

I believe it was 2 1/2% for Illinois homeowners.

I thought that a fair benchmark.

Seniors were complaining about being taxed out of their homes.  This was a means-tested program that, with enough funding, could make retired folks pay the same percentage of their incomes as those still on the payroll.

I did an analysis and calculated how much the benefit levels could be increased using just the originally-budgeted $28 million.

The bill passed the House.

Undoubtedly House Speaker W. Robert Blair wanted to keep what he considered an independent reformer happy.

When we got to the Senate Committee Terrel Clarke was Chairman of the Senate Revenue Committee.

I handed out the report which documented why we could afford to increase benefits without budgeting more money.

Clarke said he had never seen such a presentation and the bill flew out of the Republican-controlled committee.

It subsequently passed and was signed into law by Governor Dan Walker.

In Dave McKinney’s Saturday Chicago Sun-Times story, he points out that only $24 million was going for property tax relief last year.

Now, it is zero thanks to Governor Pat Quinn and those legislators who voted for the budget this year.

= = = = =

At some point renters were included in the program.  Rational I guess, because rent most assuredly includes property taxes.

During the first term of Governor Jim Thompson, I managed to pass another bill to increase benefits because participation remained lower than projected.

The Circuit Breaker got hijacked by the Democrats and turned into a senior citizen prescription drug subsidy program.

I guess they figured that subsidizing drugs was more politically beneficial than subsidizing property taxes.


Pat Quinn and Legislators Kill Senior Citizen Tax Relief — 1 Comment

  1. For a person who knows so much about the IL Circuit Breaker Program, you certainly gave a great background, but a lousy wrap-up.

    This program wasn’t hijacked by Democrats.

    The program still is designed to act just like a circuit breaker acts when there in an electrical overload.

    It is a safety net for low income seniors and disabled people.

    And because of the budget crisis it too has faced a 50% reduction in grants.

    Now while we are talking about Democrats, there is a Democrat over in Lake County who is a township supervisor and running for State Rep.

    Because he and his slate committed to return the pay raises put into place by the previous administration in 2008 (nearly 40K over the four year term) they are using that “give back” to start a grant program to help seniors and veterans with property tax relief.

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