Editor's Note: Brett Rowland is on vacation this week. His column will return next week.
There are 102 Counties in Illinois. Chicago and Cook County is but one. The rest of us comprise the 101 counties outside the Chicago/Cook area.
A little-known fact that Chicago/Cook Democrats won’t tell you, particularly at election time, is the long entrenched favorable real estate tax treatment that Chicago/Cook enjoys alone — their residential real estate is assessed at only 10 percent of fair market value, while the rest of us in the 101 counties outside Chicago/Cook are assessed at 33.33 percent of fair market value. That means if you own a $100,000 home in Chicago/Cook your real estate taxes would be about $800, while the rest of us in the 101 counties outside Chicago/Cook would pay $2,666 for the same house.
Why is this important? Because our real estate taxes primarily pay for our local schools.
We in the 101 Counties outside Cook County proudly pay our taxes in large measure as a commitment to our kids and our local schools that educate them. We of the 101 largely pay for our schools with our real estate taxes — Chicago/Cook doesn’t — it can’t when it only assesses at 10 percent of fair market value.
Traditionally, every year, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) goes to Springfield for a bailout, which the rest of us in the 101 end up paying. CPS’ Teacher Pension Fund deficit is now at $12 billion and climbing. This year alone, they have a shortfall of $780 million of which — you guessed it — you and I of the 101 will end up paying $230 million as our annual Springfield bailout.
Chicago/Cook is hopelessly lost to the Democrats, who promise to hold the line on lower taxes — which is a euphemism for lower real estate taxes, not income taxes. That’s how Mike Madigan controls Chicago/Cook — why wouldn’t you vote for him if your real estate tax bill is only a third of what you and I pay in the 101? Madigan and his Chicago Democrats don’t really care about the unfairness of our 101 paying not only for our schools, but Chicago’s as well.
To add insult to injury, should you think your already reduced real estate tax bill in Chicago/Cook is too high — guess again — you can go to Madigan’s law firm, who has a reputation for successful tax appeals.
So, the question is if we elect Republicans this fall, will that change things?
No, not immediately, but it’s a good start. I can remember 50 years ago in law school at John Marshall, our beloved Dean Lee, teaching us Illinois Constitutional Law. He had been in the Illinois legislature. He despised what is known as Special Legislation (that is legislation that applies to the few and not to all) which even in Illinois can be technically deficient.
Chicago/Cooks’s lower assessed tax rate of 10 percent is without question Special Legislation. You may ask how did this withstand a Constitutional challenge? The answer is our clever Democratic friends of generations past passed the legislation on the basis of population, i.e. counties of more than 1 million people could tax at the lower assessed rate of 10 perecnt. At the time of passage, only Chicago/Cook had 1 million. Parenthetically, this is only one of many laws favorable to Chicago/Cook.
Starting to get the big picture? Until we elect enough Republicans and fair-minded Democrats who are willing to stand up to Madigan and repeal and replace such Special Legislation favorable only to Chicago/Cook, Illinois will continue down the road to perdition and bankruptcy. We of the 101 cordially invite our Democratic friends to join us in voting Republican. That might be a good start in balancing the scales of fairness to those of us in the 101.