LOUISVILLE, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — State senator Darren Bailey (R-Louisville) arrived in the Illinois House in 2019 after launching an anti-tax campaign to win a seat in the legislature. He’s echoing similar themes now as he runs for governor.
“I got ticked off at the tax increases that came in 2018,” Bailey told a handful of supporters on the campaign trail at a Bloomington bar in December.
“We must lower taxes,” Bailey told the Newton Press Monitor when he was first running for the state legislature in 2018. “Illinois has the second highest property taxes in the nation and is inching closer and closer to becoming the state with the highest property taxes in the country.”
When Grain Systems, Inc. (GSI) closed its Flora manufacturing site in Bailey’s district in 2019, the newly inaugurated state representative blamed the job losses on “tax hikers” who “keep raising taxes and increasing fees on families and businesses.”
However, long before he was taking votes in the General Assembly, Bailey was voting to extend and raise property tax levies at the North Clay School District.
Tax records at the Clay County Treasurer’s office and the Illinois Department of Revenue show that from 1996 to 2012, Bailey voted to raise the property tax levy by a combined 81%. Chicago Public Schools showed more fiscal restraint, raising its property tax levy by 57.1% over the same period.
Thirteen times, the school board voted to raise the property tax levy. Every time a property tax hike was proposed, Bailey voted for it.
“I believe it’s a much different scenario,” the GOP gubernatorial hopeful told reporters in Morton last week. “You know, taxing bodies have the ability to level… levy a certain amount.”
Bailey, a millionaire farmer who has accepted millions of dollars in federal subsidies, downplayed the cost of the incremental property tax hikes.
“Many times, many times it was $5 a household,” he stammered. “I think at one time at the maximum was $19 a household.”
For 87-year-old Helen Joan Cook, who lives in Bailey’s hometown on a fixed income, the property taxes are a a costly burden that eat into her disposable income.
“It could be a little better, especially for senior citizens,” Cook said on Tuesday. She had just hung up the phone haggling with her insurance provider over the cost of her prescription medications.
“It don’t go too far [by the] time you make your house payment and everything else,” she said about her fixed income. “I just think that the taxes should be lowered, really.”
What would lower property taxes mean for her?
“It would mean I’d have a few dollars left over for food where I have to really cut corners,” she said.
Bailey blamed his votes to raise property taxes on the state’s dismally low levels of education funding.
“Many times, on a small school district, state government would short school districts,” he explained. “They still do it today. Sometimes we got the money a year, two years later. Sometimes we didn’t.”
On that point, Bailey is correct. Illinois state government chronically underfunded local school districts for so long, many local districts often raised property taxes to make up the difference.
However, when Bailey got to Springfield and had the power to do something to change that, the House and Senate voted three times to raise the state’s education funding levels. All three times, Bailey voted against it.