SPRINGFIELD (Heartland Newsfeed) — Local lawmakers in the Illinois General Assembly could be prevented from passing tax hikes without voter permission. With passage, the state’s voters will have to vote on a referendum as to whether or not tax hikes should be passed.
Following years of continued abuse by state and local governments in the form of tax hikes, Illinois have realized their entitlement to vote with their feet, according to a report from the Illinois Policy Institute think tank.House Bill 4490, which was filed Wednesday, Jan. 31 by Machesney Park Republican Rep. John Cabello, would put the fate of tax hikes in the hands of voters and the majority taxpayer base and would amend the Illinois Municipal Code, prohibiting municipal taxing bodies from imposing on taxpayers “any tax increase or levy [or] any new or additional tax without prior referendum approval.” This change affects both home-rule and non-home-rule municipalities, which would become effective immediately upon becoming law. The much-overdue legislation comes forth as the average property tax bills have skyrocketed six times faster than the average household income and with a narrower path between public treasuries and taxpayer pockets, local officials will be forced to re-evaluate how they look at fiscal management, pushing toward more fiscally-responsible budgets with budget cuts and no tax hikes. Government costs have become out of control and has become a problem in all levels of government in Illinois, but it is a problem worthy of a solution. Local governments have begun to take action to ease the taxpayer burden on their own volition. The Lakewood village board in the Chicagoland region voted to cut their tax levy by 10 percent, targeting administrator bloat in the process and by consolidating management positions with duplicate roles, resulting in reduced compensation costs and much needed taxpayer relief. Lakewood also voted to dissolve their TIF (tax increment financing) district, which was revealed to squander local revenues compared to the intention of stimulating economic activity. House Bill 4490 would apply the same pressure to state and lower-level governments to follow Lakewood’s example on governmental reforms by exploring measures involving reduction in spending and the lowering of property tax levies. By removing politicians from the equation, the power of the people is restored in a modern political era where Illinoisans are overtaxed to the point of leaving Illinois at the rate of one per every five minutes, or roughly the rate of 1,440 people per day. With potential tax hikes hinging on voter approval, reforms would demand more discipline from public elected officials, adding pressure to exercise greater transparency with public finances. Although moving out of Illinois has been the preferred choice in response to tax hikes, the bill — should it become law — would make a “no” vote an option instead of forced compliance.
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.