Alton, IL

Bill Would Increase Pension Transparency

Story by WBGZ Radio

A state lawmaker hopes once people see in writing how much of their tax dollars are going to pay for public sector pensions, it will force a conversation about finding solutions to the state's growing pension debt.


From Springfield to Mattoon to Marion and beyond, local governments in Illinois are seeing their share of property taxes, to the tune of millions of dollars, being eaten up by local public employee pension benefits.


State Rep. David Olsen, R-Downers Grove, has a measure, House Bill 287, to require property tax bills for each taxing district to show taxpayers how much is going into local public employee pensions.


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“People, if they really knew how much property tax money was actually going to pensions, they would really be outraged and demand reform,” Olsen said. “I think we need to provide transparency in order for the public to be behind reform principles throughout the state.”


Olsen’s bill would require each property tax bill to have a separate statement for each taxing district setting forth the dollar amount of the tax due that will be used for pensions.


“And if taxpayers decide this is how they want to spend their money, that’s up to taxpayers,” Olsen said. “But I think many taxpayers just don’t know and so they don’t see the urgency of pension reform.”


“I’m not saying what the reform needs to be,” Olsen said, “But let’s understand the problem and then let’s address it.”


Americans for Prosperity Illinois State Director Andrew Nelms said policy makers have neglected to reverse poor public policy that’s costing taxpayers big.


“Obviously, our highest-in-the-nation property taxes are being levied exclusively by our most-in-the-nation local units of government,” Nelms said.


Illinois has been ranked by several organizations as having the second-highest property tax rates in the country, behind only New Jersey. Illinois also has been cited by Governing Magazine for having the most units of government at nearly 7,000. That’s more than Texas’ 5,147 units of local government.


Olsen said his bill should bring taxpayers together to pressure policy makers to act.


Nelms said one area of focus should be the local level “where they oftentimes operate with very little scrutiny and very little input from the public and they use that to their advantage.”


Olsen’s bill could be heard in the House Revenue and Finance Property Tax Subcommittee Thursday in Springfield.


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