Gov. Quinn: Homeowners to get tax rebate - FOX 32 News Chicago

Gov. Quinn: Homeowners to get tax rebate

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Governor Pat Quinn wants the state to send every homeowner a $500 check by this fall, when he hopes to win re-election.

The cash is supposed to soften the pain of his plan to extend the state's "temporary" income tax increase. However, the taxpayer watchdog Civic Federation declared Tuesday that Illinois can’t afford it.

The Civic Federation’s president, Laurence Msall, noted that despite the income tax extension, Quinn’s proposing to borrow $650 million for the General Revenue Fund. He said one easy way to balance the budget would be to eliminate the extra $715 million cost of the checks-for-homeowners program.

FOX 32 News didn't find anyone on State Street Tuesday evening who recalled hearing about the proposal. As we started to explain it, many liked it, at first.

“I think it's a great thing. I think it's a damn good thing. Anything anybody can get these days is very, very helpful,” said Chicago resident Eric Horton.

The $500 checks would not go to renters, but only to homeowners.

And there is a tradeoff.

Homeowners could no longer deduct their local property tax bill at income tax time, a deduction in some cases worth much more than $500. That was the point at which several homeowners who liked the program at first blush jumped off the bandwagon.

“Not a good idea. My property taxes went up 30% this year,” said Chicago homeowner Mike Merritt.

“If it's taking away my deduction, yes, I think that would be less beneficial than keeping my taxes as they are,” added Clem Carroll, another Chicago homeowner.

A spokesman said Gov. Quinn estimates 92% of homeowners would pay the same or less in net property taxes and 8% would pay more than they do now.

Watchdogs at the Civic Federation, though, said that was only one part of the tax story. They pointed to the impact of Quinn's plan to extend what was originally billed as a "temporary" state income tax increase. The Civic Federation said that, for any Illinoisan with more than $40,000 in taxable income, the tax bill would jump by more than the $500 rebate.

“It just seems like a very extravagant gift to be giving when the state's not paying its bills, when the senior services are being underfunded, when the people who take care of the developmentally disabled have to wait years for their bills to be paid,” declared Msall.

Msall also said that before starting expensive new programs, Illinois should pay down its pile of unpaid bills, currently more than $5 billion.

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