'Tax swap' bill is a bad deal for residents, and schools

Opinion

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After reading your May 25 editorial in support of the Tax Swap Bill now pending before the Illinois General Assembly ("Best chance to fix schools"), I have to admit that I am still confused as to why this paper supports this bill.

In my view, the proposed tax swap is a fundamentally bad concept. First, it will result in higher taxes for most Illinoisans. According to an analysis provided by the Chicago Tribune, the average River Forester's combined real estate and state income tax obligation would increase by more than 22 percent if this bill were to pass. The average Oak Parker's total tax burden would increase between 13 percent on the low end and 20 percent on the high end.

You also suggested that taxing income rather than an ad valorem tax on real estate is a more logical and progressive way to pay for schools. I, for one, fail to see that logic. Property taxes are inherently progressive since high wage earners are most likely to have more expensive homes and thus a higher real estate tax burden. This is especially true when you factor in the assessment exemptions that are available for seniors, the disabled and other low income individuals.

But in its most glaring omission, your editorial ignored the fact that the tax swap would vest the state with greater authority over our schools at the expense of local control. This fact is underscored by the comments of Mary Alheim, an Oak Park teacher, who is quoted as saying that "taking the burden off local property taxes would lessen the 'sense of control' taxpaying parents would have regarding school operations, and return it to "the educator's hands." That statement should send shivers down every parent's spine. Property taxes do not give parents just a sense of control, but actual input into the way that our schools are run by giving them the power over the purse string. State funding would dramatically diffuse that power to the point of irrelevance and place the future of our children's education in the hands of nameless, faceless bureaucrats in Springfield. While that may be something that Ms. Alheim or the Illinois Teachers' Federation may want, is that something that any sentient parent would want?

Clearly, the tax swap bill is a bad deal for Illinois taxpayers generally and parents specifically. While the state should increase funding for some schools to ensure a minimum level of funding, the swap should not be the vehicle for that obligation. WEDNESDAY JOURNAL's simplistic endorsement of this bad bill does a disservice to your readers.

Thomas Cargie
River Forest

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