CHICAGO — Illinois homeowners could get $500 checks this year under a provision of Gov. Pat Quinn’s state budget he claims will ease the burden of an unfair property tax system.
However, the refund plan also comes as the Chicago Democrat wants to make Illinois’ temporary income tax increase permanent in the same proposed budget and he faces a fierce re-election challenge from Republican businessman Bruce Rauner.
The plan has come under scrutiny from Republicans, who say Quinn hasn’t provided enough specifics and should be focused on cutting costs, and some homeowners who say they’ll lose money. Still, Quinn says most homeowners will benefit from what he’s deemed a historic property tax relief plan.
“It’s fair, it’s substantial,” he said this week in Chicago. “It is guaranteed and permanent.”
Here’s a closer look at Quinn’s plan:
Currently, Illinois homeowners get a tax credit, which is 5 percent of property taxes paid. About 2.3 million Illinois tax filers requested the credit in 2012 and it cost the state about $563 million in lost revenue, according to the Illinois Department of Revenue. The newly proposed refund of $500 would replace the credit, and homeowners would get the same amount regardless of where they live or how much they pay in property taxes.
If lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled House and Senate approve the plan soon, state officials hope to be able to issue checks by the fall around the time property tax bills are due. The idea is to ease the burden of those bills. This year, homeowners would likely have to apply for the refund, but the process could change in the future.
The idea has raised eyebrows, particularly with checks possibly arriving close to the November election.
Quinn is locked in what’s anticipated to be one of the most difficult and expensive campaigns nationwide.