Wait ’til next year for reform

The news: House Bill 750–”which would shift some of the school funding burden from property taxes by increasing income taxes and expanding the state’s sales taxes while reducing local property taxes–”has stalled in the General Assembly.

Behind the news: During the 2005-2006 school year, the state’s share of school funding declined for the fourth year in a row and stood at its lowest point in a decade, according to a Chicago Reporter analysis. Some argue that the state’s reliance on property taxes hurts property-poor districts that can’t generate sufficient local revenue and can’t attract the necessary residential or commercial development because of high property tax rates.

Some blame Gov. Rod Blagojevich for the standstill because he refuses to sign any legislation that raises taxes. “If the governor would back off of this veto, we would pass this with bipartisan support,” said Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability and an author of the bill. According to a poll conducted earlier this year on behalf of Citizen Action/Illinois, a public-interest organization, about 66 percent of 617 Illinois registered voters favored increasing income taxes while reducing property taxes to boost state support for schools and colleges.

Gerardo Cardenas, Blagojevich’s press secretary, said the governor’s threat of a veto is a moot point because the sponsors of HB 750 couldn’t get the bill past the second reading, let alone to the governor’s desk. “It fails because its numbers are way off,” he said.

Either way, the fight is not over.

“The problem’s not going to go away,” said Clare Fauke, communications coordinator for A+ Illinois, a school education advocacy organization pushing for funding reform. “And we’re not going to pack up and go home if we don’t get it done this year.”

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