(The Center Square) – As Illinois Republicans look to avoid any tax increases during veto session, a measure that could lead to local tax increases to fund mental health boards has passed the Senate.
Township mental health boards in Illinois levy property taxes to fund local organizations and community mental health initiatives. The boards focus on mental health, substance abuse and developmental disabilities and issue contracts to local agencies to provide services for its residents.
Senate Bill 690 from state Sen. Ann Gillespie, D-Arlington Heights, would allow townships to ask local voters for increased taxes to fund these boards in certain townships. The measure passed Wednesday along party lines.
A possible tax increase runs contrary to what House Minority Leader Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, laid out in her veto session plans, which included a goal to lower taxes on Illinoisans.
“We must make finding tax relief a priority,” McCombie said. “Yet we continue to hear conversations that they [Democrats] are going to be increasing our overall tax burden.”
State Sen. Craig Wilcox, R-McHenry, told The Center Square the measure is another money grab from taxpayers.
“This seems to be a way of arguably, almost taxation without honest representation,” Wilcox said. “This is not uncommon with the majority party in control. My fear is that we often do things through the legislature that arguably should have been put to the voters to make decisions in their local areas.”
Gillespie said the measure changes the language in a referendum, but Wilcox said that doesn’t account for the extra costs.
“The core of it was the failure to agree on how to properly do the referendum with the appropriate wording that would have highlighted to the constituents that this was not just an agreement on an established mental health board, but that it came with a price tag,” Wilcox said. “That’s what we were opposed to in that bill.”
The measure is now up for concurrence with the Illinois House. Both chambers return Nov. 7.