Urgent Property Tax Sale and Legislative Updates

Rep. Greg Harris • 13th District

Springfield Update • August 31, 2017


Urgent Property Tax Sale and Legislative Updates


When property taxes are not paid by the deadline, a series of legal steps are initiated that eventually results in people’s homes and properties being auctioned off to the highest bidder willing to pay the unpaid tax bills.  For FY16 property taxes in Cook County the tax sale was set for only 90 days from the 2nd installment due date.


This shortened timetable and potential problems with the delivery of notifications, could have resulted in terrible consequences for home and building owners. In some cases, even causing residents to lose their homes.


To help solve this problem, give more opportunity for outreach to people who have outstanding bills and allow them to pay their past due bills before their property is auctioned off, we passed HB155, sponsored by Rep. Elgie Sims to extend the notice period. You can see the law here: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/100/HB/PDF/10000HB0155enr.pdf


If you have unpaid tax year 2016 property taxes it is vitally important that you resolve these debts soon to avoid your property going to auction. In the 13th District, there are 1,741 parcels which could be auctioned off. If you have any questions about the status of your property tax payments for tax year 2016, please contact my office at 773 348 3434 or coleman@gregharris.org.


Treasurer Maria Pappas has provided us with a searchable database of properties in our district that are at risk. Be sure to have your address and you PIN number available when you contact us.  If your property is NOT located within the 13th District, please contact the State Representative or Senator for that district to search their database.


Legislative Actions This Week


My bill HB1785 (the Transgender Birth Certificate Law) was signed into law this week. Updating and modernizing the half century old requirements for how Transgender people can correct the gender marker on their birth certificate and adding new provisions for Intersex people which have never existed.  You can see the legislation here:  http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/100/HB/PDF/10000HB1785lv.pdf


The place to go to make these changes will be the Division of Vital Records of the Illinois Department of Public Health.  I am assuming it will take them a few weeks to design new forms, reprogram software and other implementation functions to properly accept and record your corrections.  Here is the Vital Records website where you can check for updates:  http://www.dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/birth-death-other-records


I am proud to have been a cosponsor of 2 other important pieces of legislation that became law this week.  First is the TRUST Act, which adds protections for Illinois immigrants and refugees who are being targeted by President Trump’s deportation drive.  Among other things, the Trust Act requires that people can only be detained after due legal process and not solely because of ICE orders.  Thanks to Sponsors Rep. Chris Welch and Sen. Pres. John Cullerton, along with the fighters of Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and many other advocates for social justice.  You can see the legislation here:  http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/100/SB/PDF/10000SB0031lv.pdf


Also this week, to fight against the efforts of the Trump administration and extreme right-wing think tank ALEC to roll back voting rights and add impediments and burdens to for residents to vote—particularly in minority communities—Illinois stood for inclusivity becoming one of a handful of states to offer Automatic Voter Registration. The Automatic Voter Registration act will expand opportunities and reduce burdens to be sure that as many people are registered and have the right to vote in our elections.  Thanks to Rep. Robyn Gabel and Sen. Andy Manar, the chief sponsors. You can see the legislation here:  http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/100/SB/PDF/10000SB0031lv.pdf


This week we considered 2 pieces of legislation to enact a new funding formula for Illinois Schools.  The last time the education funding formula had been changed was several decades ago. The old formula was so antiquated and inequitable that not only was Illinois ranked as at the bottom of school funding among all the 50 states, the unfair system in many cases provided more funding to wealthier districts and less to districts with high concentrations of poverty, ESL and special education students.


For 2 years a bi-partisan, bi-cameral task force of legislators, along with the Governor’s office, education advocates, school leaders, parents and educators have been meeting around the state to develop a new school funding plan.  The result of these years of meetings and negotiations resulted in legislation called SB1 which is the Evidence Based Model (EBM).  The EBM would have held every one of the 852 school districts in Illinois harmless going forward, meaning that under the new model NO school district would lose existing funding. However all new funding for schools will be distributed based on a formula to be sure that the poorest and most challenged school districts get state money to move them closer to adequacy.  Essentially, this would be a progressive formula taking into account a variety of factors to provide more money to the neediest districts and students You can see SB1 here: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/100/SB/PDF/10000SB0001enr.pdf


The Governor and the Republicans then introduced their own Evidence Based Model separate from the consensus SB1 developed by the task force.  Major differences in the Governor’s model include:

  • Diminish collective bargaining rights for teachers
  • Expand school districts contracts with third parties (privatization)
  • Allow school districts to opt out of all state mandates such as length of school day and year, sex education, instruction on slavery and the Holocaust. Etc.
  • Switch to a per-pupil hold harmless in 2020, which would cause a redistribution from poorer to wealthier school districts
  • Remove inflation adjustments in school funding which would reduce education funding over time
  • Eliminate or reduce Minimum Funding Levels
  • Remove current value of block grant funding for Chicago Public Schools
  • 100% state private schools tax credit, PLUS the value of federal deduction (double dipping). The first year maximum would be $100 million, would automatically increase 25% per year every year, and would become a permanent tax credit.


In our new State budget, passed over the Governor’s veto, there was $7 billion for P-12 education. In addition, there $350 million in new funds included as a first instalment to support the Evidence Based Model and provide more resources to the poorest school districts, as well as $50 million more funding for Early Childhood Education and $60 million for student transportation. There was also a provision that prohibited the State from sending out education money based on the old, inequitable model, and required adoption of an Evidence Based Model before any education funding could be distributed.


SB1 passed both the House and Senate and was sent to the Governor on July 31. The Governor immediately vetoed SB1 (which was developed by a task force led by his own Secretary of Education, and which he said he supports 90%) and therefore put at risk all education funding for the entire state. On Aug 16, the House returned to consider the Governor’s alternative funding proposal. In a hugely embarrassing rebuke, Rauner’s proposal received ZERO votes.


That left trying to override the veto of the Governor on SB1 as the only remaining option.  An override a Veto of the Governor takes a super-majority of 71 votes in the House. There are only 67 Democrats, so it would require at least 4 Republican votes to override the veto of SB1.  The Republican caucus announced that they would hold firm with the Governor and there would be no Republican override votes, causing any attempt to override to fail, even though the state was already missing state aid payments to schools.  Their position was that they wanted new negotiations on a new bill with compromises from the Democrats.  Those negotiations were done with the Speaker, Senate President and the 2 Minority Leaders. The Governor chose not to participate.


The result of those compromise negotiations is House Amendment #5 to SB1947 which you can see here:http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/100/SB/PDF/10000SB1947ham005.pdf.


The negotiated agreements contains all the provisions of the original SB1, with the following changes:

  • Maintains the Minimum Funding Level, but in future years allows $50 million to be used for swap programs to reduce local property taxes
  • Requires that the normal cost of CPS (the costs of pension payments for current years) to be paid out under the State Pension Code instead of education funding, which is $221 million for CPS
  • Includes special education funding for CPS in the hold harmless provisions
  • Allows the adjustment to CPS local resources calculations to be utilized by all other districts, and should districts develop legacy pension costs under a Tier III program, they will all get the same deduction
  • Streamlines waiver process for P.E. Waivers and Drivers Ed waivers
  • In high property-tax wealth school districts where funding is about 110% of adequacy, if 10% of registered voters sign a petition, they can initiate a referendum to reduce their school district tax levy by 10%
  • Creates a private schools tax credit, however it is capped at 75% of the value, has a cap of $75 million in credits, has NO annual increases, does NOT allow double dipping with the Federal credit, and is not permanent, ending in 5 years.


Of the 2 options that the General Assembly had to choose from to solve the school funding crisis, my preferred choice was overriding the Governor on SB1.  When the compromise package came up I did not vote for it.  When the compromise failed, I cast my vote for SB1, however the Republicans held firm in their position and the override failed.  When the compromise was reconsidered after the failure of the veto override, I had to weigh the options before us.


The compromise would guarantee that school opened on time, could stay open all year and would immediately release state aid payments which otherwise could not be spent without appropriation authority in the bill.  Moreover, my school district (CPS) would receive $466 million more per year (and actually more than in the original SB1 due to some of the negotiated changes), as well as additional protections and funding guarantees for the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.


Other positive items included the protection of collective bargaining rights for teachers, the protection of Minimum Funding Levels, the prevention of a change in funding in 2020 which would have harmed poorer districts to advantage wealthier ones, and the inclusion of the an inflation adjustment so that the value of school funding could not be diminished every year. One of the additions added during negotiations that I did not support was the tax credit program.


I heard heavily from my constituents on both sides of these 2 bills.  Based on that input and knowing the permanent funding benefits to CPS in this bill versus the unknowns of what the result would be if no education-funding bill were passed, and the consequences if school districts failed to open or stay open, on the reconsideration vote on the compromise I was a “Yes” vote.