Gov. Bruce Rauner, in his first State of the State address, placed much of the blame for high property taxes in Illinois on public employee and construction trades unions.
The Republican said the average homeowner in Illinois pays more than three times as much in property taxes as a homeowner in Indiana and that the average property tax bill here has increased nearly 33 percent in the past decade, while real family incomes have gone down.
He called for giving local voters “the ability to control the collective bargaining issues in their local governments” and giving government employees the ability to decide for themselves whether they want to join a union.
He also called for reform of project labor agreements and prevailing wage requirements “that block true competitive bidding” and “can increase the cost of taxpayer-funded construction projects by 20 percent or more.”
Rauner also called for a form of local-option right-to-work legislation, letting voters decide whether to become what he called “employee empowerment zones” — where workers could choose whether or not to join a union.
State Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston objected to many of the governor’s proposals, saying, “I don’t believe, as he seems to, that the path to prosperity runs through cutting wages and eroding the middle class.”
Biss said the Rauner approach would “sentence us to long-term economic stagnation.”
But Biss, who led the effort in Springfield to give Evanston voters the power to eliminate township government here, presumably won’t object to the governor’s call to consolidate the state’s largest-in-the-nation collection of local government units.
And he offered praise for Rauner’s focus “on reforming our tax and criminal justice systems.”
Rauner, among other things, wants to broaden the base of the sales tax to cover many services that now are not taxed, and he called for expanding the number of prison guards and diverting more offenders into community-based programming to reduce priosn overcrowding.