CHICAGO – Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn joined Cook County Board Commissioners today in launching a bipartisan drive to create the “Cook County Taxpayer Action Board” (TAB), a new membership watchdog group designed to be a voice for Cook County taxpayers.
The purpose of the Cook County Taxpayer Action Board would be to represent the interests of county taxpayers and to inform them about local tax policies. Many Cook County Commissioners joined Quinn at the press conference to support an ordinance creating TAB.
“Ben Franklin once said death and taxes were inevitable,” Quinn noted, “but he never said it’s inevitable for everyday citizens to be taxed to death.”
Cook County Commissioners Jerry Butler (D-Chicago), Forrest Claypool (D-Chicago), Earlean Collins (D-Chicago), John P. Daley (D-Chicago), Elizabeth Ann Doody Gorman (R-Orland Park), Gregg Goslin (R-Glenview), Carl R. Hansen (R-Mt. Prospect), Roberto Maldonado (D-Chicago), Joseph Mario Moreno (D-Chicago), Joan Patricia Murphy (D-Crestwood), Anthony J. Peraica (R-Riverside), Mike Quigley (D-Chicago), Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston), President John H. Stroger (D-Chicago), Peter N. Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park), Deborah Sims (D-Chicago) and Bobbie L. Steele (D-Chicago) have all signed on as co-sponsors of the ordinance, which enjoys bipartisan support.
Cook County TAB will empower taxpayers, Quinn explained. The not-for-profit membership group would be modeled after the successful Citizens Utility Board (CUB), whose creation was spearheaded by Quinn in 1983. CUB is now the largest consumer advocacy group in Illinois and has won consumers billions of dollars in refunds and utility rate relief.
“For 20 years, the pioneering Citizens Utility Board has been an effective watchdog for Illinois utility ratepayers,” Quinn said. “The creation of Cook County TAB gives beleaguered taxpayers a watchdog, too.”
Taxpayers would be invited to join Cook County TAB through membership inserts in such mailings as property tax bills. Members would then elect their first Board of Directors, with one member being elected from each of the County Board’s 17 districts. Board members would serve without salary. Voluntary membership fees would pay operating expenses.
“Taxpayers need a strong voice in the fundamental decisions that affect their lives,” Quinn said. “It’s time to give Cook County taxpayers a way to band together to win reforms and the Cook County Commissioners who have signed onto this ordinance are to be saluted.”
And with the second installment of Cook County property tax bills due at the end of this month, the time to establish such a watchdog group is ripe.
“I’ve been listening to my constituents’ concerns about skyrocketing property taxes since the day I was elected,” Comm. Claypool said. “Many homeowners are being forced from their homes and communities because of their inability to pay their exorbitant tax bills.”
Cook County has one of the largest property tax systems in the world, so the establishment of a TAB could be a model of citizen empowerment for other counties. In fact, the Illinois Senate passed a measure (Senate Bill 714) in the spring session allowing collar counties to create their own Taxpayer Action Boards.
“The launch of the Cook County Taxpayer Action Board is long overdue,” said Quinn, adding that currently, there is no entity or organization that is authorized by ordinance to represent the interests of Cook County taxpayers before local units of government in the county.
Quinn served as Commissioner of the Cook County Board of (Property Tax) Appeals during the 1980s, giving property tax relief to thousands of taxpayers. After his term as Tax Appeals Commissioner, Quinn wrote the popular book titled How to Appeal Your Taxes … Without a Lawyer. He has taught property tax law for the past 20 years at Chicago Kent Law School and served as Illinois State Treasurer from 1991 to 1995.