* When you freeze assessments for one favored group of taxpayers, everybody else has to pick up the slack. So, if you want to help young homeowners, stop doing stuff like this…
The Illinois Senate is poised to take up a bill that would make it easier for some seniors to access a state program that limits property tax increases on their homes.
Under current law, people age 65 and older with incomes up to $65,000 can claim the Senior Citizens Assessment Freeze Homestead Exemption, which effectively freezes the taxable valuation of their homes so that their tax bills cannot go up simply because the market value of their home rises.
Senate Bill 1346, which cleared the Senate Revenue Committee on Wednesday, would expand that slightly, starting in the 2019 tax year, by allowing seniors to deduct from their income whatever money they spend on Medicare premiums. That would allow some people with incomes just above the $65,000 cap to claim the exemption.
Sen. Laura Ellman, a Naperville Democrat and lead sponsor of the bill, said it would benefit seniors who are “on the cusp” of the income limit, but she said she couldn’t estimate how many seniors it would benefit.
* Here’s what happened the last time the General Assembly got carried away with helping seniors on their property taxes…
When state lawmakers pushed through a trio of tax breaks in spring 2017, the idea was to ease some of the financial pain caused by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s series of major property tax hikes on Chicago homeowners, especially senior citizens.
The changes, however, also had an unintended consequence: Thousands of homes in south suburbs such as Harvey and Park Forest fell off the tax rolls, meaning those homeowners no longer pay any property taxes at all, and an even greater number are paying less.
While that’s good news for many, it’s also resulted in tens of millions of dollars in property taxes being shifted onto remaining homeowners and businesses. They are now being hit with even higher bills in an impoverished, long-struggling, largely African-American region where an outsized property tax burden already made it difficult to attract the retail shops and industry needed to reverse economic woes made worse by the Great Recession.