Bill would ease tax burden after natural disaster

Bill would ease tax burden after natural disaster

SPRINGFIELD — A bill aimed at easing the tax burden on small businesses that have to rebuild after a natural disaster has cleared the Illinois Senate, 53-0.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Mike Frerichs, whose district includes tornado-damaged Gifford in northeastern Champaign County, would limit increases in assessed valuations for businesses that need to rebuild.

Frerichs' proposal, which was contained in similar legislation introduced in the House by Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, would modify property tax bills for businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees to ensure that assessments would not increase more than 4 percent a year for a maximum of 15 years. In the case of the tornadoes in Gifford and in other parts of Illinois last year, base assessment would be calculated from the business owners' property tax assessments before the November tornadoes.

"Families and businesses in Gifford are still in the process of rebuilding and repairing their businesses and homes. This initiative will help alleviate the additional burden for small business owners of having to pay higher property taxes due to the value added by the new construction," said Frerichs. "This measure will help owners of damaged properties not be dragged down by a substantial increase in their tax bills."

Frerichs' bill, which now moves to the House where it will be sponsored by Hays, is similar to a law put in place after tornadoes devastated Harrisburg and surrounding areas in 2012. The Legislature put protections in place for homeowners so that those rebuilding would not be hit with higher property taxes.

"Small businesses rebuilding from natural disasters struggle with the same problems as homeowners. This proposal would ensure they have similar protections," said Frerichs, a Champaign Democrat who grew up in Gifford.

Although the Frerichs bill passed Tuesday without opposition, Sen. Jim Oberweis, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate against Democrat Dick Durbin, voted present.

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