Democratic gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss of Evanston today unveiled what he calls a comprehensive approach to fix Illinois’ broken property tax valuation, assessment and appeals system.

“Our property tax system is completely broken, but perfectly reflects the fundamental problem with Illinois right now – the middle class pays more than they should, and we still can’t meet our obligations or fund our priorities because the very rich game the system to pay less than their fair share,” Biss said. 

Biss says his plan would make property tax valuation in Illinois fairer, end the property tax appeals racket that lines the pockets of attorneys and politicians at the expense of ordinary homeowners and ultimately provide property tax relief for working and middle-class families. 

“For too long the millionaires and machine politicians have been able to manipulate the corrupt property tax system to benefit themselves, leaving ordinary homeowners to pay more. It’s time for a property tax system that’s fair to the rest of us,” Biss added.

He unveiled the plan at the Melrose Park home of Barbara Garner who was recently featured in the Chicago Tribune report exposing how the valuation system set up by the Cook County Assessor’s office “harmed the poor and helped the rich.” 

“You’ll hear a lot in this campaign decrying our broken property tax system. What you won’t hear are admissions from millionaires and billionaires that they used their wealth and connections to secure six-figure pay days from a system they now decry as candidates. What you also won’t hear are solutions. We need to be honest about our problems. But, the people of Illinois know what’s wrong with Illinois. What they also deserve are honest solutions.”  

Biss, who represents Evanston in the state senate, said he will introduce the Honesty, Openness, Modernization, and Ethics (HOME) in Assessments Act in the senate along with Sen. Jacqueline Collins later this week. 

It would:

  • Require assessors to publicly disclose the models they use to estimate and validate the value of homes and business.
  • Require state oversight and reporting on local officials, conduct audits, provide data, and remove authority from officials who repeatedly fail to do their jobs.
  • Require assessors to modernize their broken valuation systems, which unfairly make low and middle-income homeowners pay more and rich ones pay less, and fairly value our homes.
  • Require detailed statistical analysis by the Department of Revenue to reveal whether properties are being assessed properly, uniformly, and equitably. With modern and fair valuation methods, wealthier residents will pay their fair share, and our over-reliance on property tax appeals to provide relief for low and middle-income homeowners will be reduced.
  • Subject property tax lawyers to pay-for-play rules that curb conflicts of interest. Limit contributions from property tax lawyers to assessors, candidates for assessor, and others involved in processing appeals to $750 a year. Any contributions above that cap would result in prohibiting the violating property tax attorney from practicing law.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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