Gov. Bruce Rauner should look in the mirror before demanding the resignation of Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios for presiding over a corrupt and failing property tax system, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday.
“My basic point to Gov. Rauner [is], you’ve never passed a budget, let alone submitted one, that’s ever been balanced in three years. Don’t be throwing stones. … People in glass houses shouldn’t be throwing stones,” the mayor said while standing in front of a mountain of salt at Grand and Rockwell to highlight the city’s winter preparedness.
“Second, the voters decide whether somebody should stay or go. That’s what elections are about.”
QUIT PRO QUO?: Rauner, Berrios each demand that the other resign
Emanuel’s 2018 budget includes the fourth and final year of a record $588 million property tax increase for police and fire pensions and school construction.
But the mayor noted that the blow of the $63 million property tax increase will be softened by an increase in the homestead exemption — from $7,000 to $10,000.
“I’m proud that, working down in the legislature with the City Council joining me, we got homeowners in the city of Chicago an additional 40 percent on their homeowners exemption for this coming property tax season,” the mayor said. “Make sure you take it.”
That’s especially important, Emanuel said, “because of what’s happening in Washington, as they’re talking about making changes to deductions” in the new tax code.
In demanding that Berrios step down, Rauner accused the longtime assessor and Cook County Democratic chairman of being part of an “unholy trinity of collusion, corruption and conflicts of interest” in the property tax system.
Rauner included Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker and Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, who is also state Democratic party chairman, in that trio.
Berrios, embroiled in a re-election fight of his own, fired back, saying Rauner should “do the people of Illinois a favor – he should admit that he has failed as governor and resign.”
In demanding the assessor’s resignation, Rauner was joining Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy, who has called for an end to what he called the “property tax racket.”
The outcry came after a series of reports by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune on problems with the assessor and the property tax system.
Most recently, the Tribune and ProPublica revealed that Berrios’ office failed to assess thousands of properties.
“This system has to change, and it’s got to start with the resignation of Joe Berrios. Joe has to go,” Rauner said Monday. “He is a core feeder of this rigged corrupt system.”
Rauner argued that the “rigged” system hurts the middle class.
“He has his puppet, Joe Berrios, do his bidding on property tax assessments, and it’s all to benefit political insiders like [the] Pritzkers who saved themselves hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars,” Rauner said.
Pritzker has been conspicuously silent when asked whether he believes Berrios should resign.
A Chicago Sun-Times investigation earlier this year found Pritzker saved $230,000 in property tax breaks last year by leaving a Gold Coast mansion he owns in disrepair.
“As I’ve stated, we need to reform our flawed and inequitable property tax system,” Pritzker said in a statement last week.
“But I’m not here to score political points by attacking other Democrats. That’s what my opponents are doing when we should be focused on defeating Bruce Rauner. The voters will ultimately decide if Mr. Berrios deserves another term.”