NBC 5 Investigates has learned that a potential Illinois candidate for the U.S. Senate has a Florida home listed as his family’s primary residence -- and is receiving a healthy tax benefit because of it.
Dairy magnate Jim Oberweis is running against Doug Truax in next week's primary election for the Republican nomination, and the opportunity to run against incumbent Sen. Dick Durbin in November.
On Monday, NBC 5 learned that Oberweis was spending the week before the primary election at his condo in Bonita Springs, along Florida's Gulf Coast. NBC5 Investigates has now uncovered tax documents which show that that home is claimed as the couple’s only “primary” residence, which is the status required to claim a homeowner’s tax exemption.
The couple own a home suburban Sugar Grove, which was previously listed as their primary residence on property tax records. But when they purchased the Florida condo in 2010, documents show Oberweis' wife, Julie, applied to move the Homestead Exemption to Florida. Julie Oberweis also currently has a Florida driver's license, and cannot even vote for her husband in next Tuesday’s primary.
Lee County Florida property tax appraiser Ken Wilkinson said Oberweis did not apply for an exemption in Lee County, and Wilkinson’s office couldn't find one for Oberweis in Illinois. Wilkinson says Oberweis would benefit from the exemption his wife applied for in Florida.
"In Florida, the primary exemption for homeowners, for homesteaders, are very generous," Wilkinson said.
In fact, the exemption is worth $6,000 a year in Illinois, and $50,000 in Florida.
NBC 5 Investigates could not find any record of Oberweis currently claiming any other Illinois property as his own primary residence, separate from his wife’s.
Oberweis would not return repeated calls for comment on the change in the couple’s homestead exemption.
Oberweis would not initially confirm Monday that he was in Florida, but later admitted he was there to celebrate his wife's birthday.
It's not clear when Oberweis plans to return to Illinois.
Truax released the following statement through his spokesman Dan Curry:
"Illinois needs a Senator with both feet firmly planted in Illinois, not one scheming to avoid our taxes while seeking to represent us."
The U.S. Constitution states a candidate must live in the state when elected, but after they are elected, there are no clear residency requirements.