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It’s very unlikely ever to become law, so why the firestorm about that proposal for a new statewide property tax devoted to Illinois pensions?

Our initial article on it has now been viewed over a million times when you include many republications on other sites. (The one linked here alone was clicked over 900,000 times). Many other commenters and publications around the country covered it.

The real significance of the proposal is the subject of my monthly article in Crain’s Chicago Business this week.

If you don’t already know, three economists at the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank formally proposed that Illinois levy a a a new, annual statewide property tax of 1% for 30 years or as long as it takes, dedicated solely to state pensions.

First, it illustrates how detached from reality our establishment is.

The proposal wasn’t just the theoretical musing of some ivory tower economists. The idea was presented at this year’s annual conference co-hosted by The Chicago Fed and the Civic Federation, The Civic Federation being perhaps the establishment’s most prominent voice on fiscal matters. The conference was devoted to our pension crisis. Last year, the central theme was much the same — that Illinois is property-rich — so there must be some way to take it to pay for pensions.

But as I wrote in Crain’s, “How blind can they be to the disaster already inflicted by Illinois property taxes? Suicidal property tax rates have robbed hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of Illinois families of their home equity—probably the lion’s share of whatever wealth they had.” Illinois already has the highest property tax rates in the nation.

It’s about confiscating property to pay pensions. The proposal’s authors were open about that, writing that property can’t flee like people can, and that the new tax would immediately reduce values.

And who were the other panelists at that conference? Mostly the same folks who got us into this mess, none of whom offered either a realistic assessment or meaningful solutions:

There was former Gov. Jim Edgar, who blew the state’s best opportunity to fix its pensions when our economy was buzzing, and offered only bland platitudes with no solutions. Eric Madiar, Senate President John Cullerton’s pension expert, preached again about the “consideration model” of reform, yet nobody has ever documented even its meager claimed savings. Other experts included former state Sen. Elaine Nekritz, who played a key role in the SB1 reform proposal from 2009, which wouldn’t have accomplished much and was doomed in the courts; and Jeff Johnson, president of Chicago’s municipal pension, who earlier this month tweeted: “There’s no pension crisis.”

Pension Liabilities Leave City, State With Few Options
Johnson, Nekritz and Madiar on Chicago Tonight show

Following the conference, Madiar, Nekritz and Johnson were the guests on Chicago Tonight to present their views unchallenged.

Come on, Civic Federation, WTTW.

The second reason why the story is significant is that it showed the depth of our pension crisis. With Illinois property taxes already averaging 2.67% per year, another 1% would mean a 37% increase. That would cost property owners, I calculate, about $10 billion per year.

That’s about twice the cost per year of last years income tax increase. Yet that would only cover the unfunded liabilities for the five state pensions. The proposal didn’t even attempt to address the 650 other pensions, most of which are in critical condition. And never mind Illinois’ unpaid bills and all the other problems at the state and local level.

So, thank the authors of the study. They helped prove the case that the establishment that wrecked us can’t fix us and that our problems are colossal.

Mark Glennon is founder and Executive Editor of Wirepoints.

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Bob Sanders

If arrow smith can spend 2 million on drugs why can’t who people come up with money for your property tax bill….

Connie Cain

Let’s not forget the impact of numerous tax increment financing districts (TIF) districts and the forgone tax revenues.

the establishment is why you get people like Trump elected. They cannot see the forest because of the trees, or in less polite vernacular cannot get their heads out of their asses

Smelly jelly

The establishment is the Illuminati!!

You can’t you see this !!

Mike xyz

The 3 Chicago Fed economists project the 1% statewide residential property tax would reduce Illinois residential property value by $165 billion dollars ($828B x.2), which the economists claim would eventually be recovered.

The 20 percent reduction was picked up by Cole Lauterbach of Illinois News Network in his May 16th article.

He obtained the 20% from the May 7th Chicago Fed blog post by the three economists.

That same blog post contains the $828B figure.


The 1% has of course no chance of passing. The FEDERAL Reserve bank proposing Illinois law? Don’t the have anything FEDERAL to do? That begs the question why would you propose something that has NO chance of passing? Answer – scare em some more. People are already sacred. The General Assembly has already stiffed local governments and schools leaving them to raise the only reliable source of $ they have, the property tax.Public opinion continues to support the idea that the General Assembly mad this mess, they need to clean it up. But, get em scared enough and they may… Read more »


I think our central bankers DO understand what they are proposing; that is, all wealth reverts to the state. What care they? They are there to help their political friends, not the citizen. It’s been that way since the beast crawled off of Jekyll Island to take over the world.


With the already contracted debt and need for future debt of course the bankers are in support of this.

Bob Sanders

Bankers are the Illuminati!!

Bob Sanders

Jake man that stuff about jeckel island is true.

It’s all the Illuminati man


Mark- When you state that taxes are 2.67% does that include farmland. New Jersey is always number 1 or 2 in property taxes % wise but they have much less farmland that Illinois. What would the % be excluding farmland. Illinois has 27 Million acres farmland vs 733,000 in NJ. Thanks!


Freddy – Illinois farmland owners enjoy much lower property taxes than similar land owners in surrounding states. Illinois agricultural land is not taxed based solely on its value, but rather, by a formula based on value and, mostly, productivity. Illinois farmers enjoy the protection of an incredibly powerful lobby that has kept their operating costs quite low.

Mike xyz

It’s not only the farmers lobby.

Developers and politicians own farmland too.


It was the Illinois Farm Bureau that lobbied for, and drove through, the current farmland property tax assessment system.