I was talking pensions with Senator Dan Biss back in 2013.
I was watching public television’s Chicago Tonight last week and local reporter Carol Marin was giving Cook County tax collector Irene Pappas the third degree.
Like pensions and tax policy in general, this issue can get very weedy and I would imagine those not directly involved tend to zone out when the topic comes up.
The basic issue is that in Illinois if you don’t pay your residential property taxes on time they get sold to a private party, usually a friend of Speaker Mike Madigan, for collection.
Illinois has property tax sales. It is a profitable little business because the buyers of the delinquent taxes can turn around and charge usury interest rates.
Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer says tax sale system goes back a generation, and should be scrapped.
“The tax buyers pull about $25 million to $40 million in fees and interest payments out of low- and working-class voters,” Gainer said. “It’s an insider deal like we see all over government. A couple people figure out how to make additional money and then it lives because nobody understands it.”
There is no need to explain who this impacts the most.
But I will anyway.
Poor and working class homeowners would be the ones that have a tough time paying their bills on time. I doubt Ken Griffin worries about this.
We are delinquent if the property tax bill goes unpaid after 90 days.
At the time of the 2008 Bush Depression the Democratic legislature extended the time in Cook County to a year until the taxes can be sold. So many homeowners were under water that delinquent tax payment was epidemic.
But the year-long extension had a sun set provision. This year, we are back to 90 days and the tax sale was last week. The Chicago Tonight report and Carol Marin made it seem as if the Democrats, led by gubernatorial aspirant Senator Dan Biss and State Representative Christian Mitchell had sponsored a bill shortening the time once again.
I emailed Biss to ask, “What the hell?”
Senator Dan Biss and I have a fairly long, cordial but adversarial relationship. Dan was a prime mover, along with State Representative Elaine Nekritz, of efforts to steal state employee pensions. But since the Illinois Supreme Court ruled those efforts unconstitutional, Biss has said that he would not try that crap again.
Now he is running to be the Democrat’s alternative to Bruce Rauner. The field is getting more crowded each day. Most are trying to capture the vote of progressive voters. Rauner is considered one of the most vulnerable candidates in the country next year and the Bernie vote in last year’s primary was huge.
Dan called me back. He told me that the Chicago Tonight story got it wrong. He told me that he and State Representative Christian Mitchell’s bill (SB 2778) did just the opposite of what Carol Marin reported. It extended the time before property tax payments in Cook County were sold.
In a follow up email, Biss wrote,
The status quo was going to stick people with a 90 day limit starting with tax year 2013.
My bill would have given people the July 1 grace period in perpetuity.
The compromise reached in the House gave the July 1 grace period for tax year 2013, then a May 1 grace period for tax year 2014, a March 1 grace period for tax year 2015, and then the 90 day limit starting with tax year 2016.
If you can’t follow all this, I don’t blame you. Unless it is your tax bill that got sold.
And even then.
90 days. Nine months. A year.
I mean, what are we talking about? The system is fixed and hurts poor folks and all they are doing is moving the date around.
The point is that Cook County and Illinois have made delinquent tax collection a private business.
By law, that tax buyer now has the exclusive right to charge the delinquent property owner 12 percent interest for every subsequent tax installment that goes unpaid, rising to 24 percent in year two. This is where homeowners facing financial hardship can start drowning in debt, and this is where they cash in on millions in fees.
The companies themselves are obscure LLCs and there is not much known about them. They can be financial investors, real estate, or banks. They have been represented in Springfield by lobbyists like Mike McClain, Robert Molaro and John Lowder, all of whom have close ties to House Speaker Michael Madigan.
So, if you want to be the progressive candidate for governor, instead of dicking around with how many days poor folks have until a friend of Michael Madigan screws you by buying your tax bill and charging you 12% interest, lead a fight to end this practice.
I offer the suggestion free of charge, Senator Biss.