Cook County

Rauner Calls on Berrios to Resign as Cook County Assessor

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner announced plans to call on Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios to resign Monday following an investigation revealing inequities and errors in Berrios' assessment system. 

Rauner was slated to discuss his stance during a press conference Monday morning at the home of a Cook County resident facing high property taxes, the governor's campaign office said in a release. 

Berrios continues to face the fallout of a Chicago Tribune/ProPublica Illinois investigation alleging that his office has failed to estimate the value of thousands of properties, sometimes simply carrying over one number from one year to the next.

The analysis, published Thursday, also revealed that errors in Berrios’ system created “deep inequities” that punished small businesses while “cutting a break” to owners of high-value properties – ultimately forcing homeowners to pay more in property taxes.

That report was the publication’s second on Berrios’ practices, after a June investigation brought to light widespread inequities in the county's residential property tax system.

Those investigations have brought the political ties of Berrios – who also serves as the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party – into the spotlight.

The Cook County Board of Commissioners questioned him in July, asking why tax attorneys are allowed to contribute to his campaign fund – an area in which Berrios said he was open to discussing changes.

Rauner's announcement comes just one day after three members of Congress endorsed Berrios' opponent Fritz Kaegi for Cook County Assessor in the upcoming March primary.

Reps. Danny K. Davis (7th), Bill Foster (11th) and Robin Kelly (2nd), all Democrats, threw their support behind Kaegi, saying he would “bring professionalism and accountability, and restore confidence in the office.”

Kaegi has said he believes taking contributions from the lawyers who appeal taxes is corrupt, vowing not do so in his campaign - a stance that Davis, Foster and Kelly praised as a promise “to take politics out” of the assessor’s office.

In a statement, Rauner said the investigation showed that Berrios "and State House Speaker Mike Madigan have abused their power to enrich themselves and provide tax benefits for connected allies at the expense of the middle class and small businesses."

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy also called on Berrios to step down Thursday in the wake of the Tribune/ProPublica investigation, saying the “property tax racket run by Joe Berrios and political insiders needs to end and it needs to end today.”

Berrios’ office fired back, urging Kennedy to “return to taxpayers the millions of dollars in tax savings resulting from those reductions” in a statement.

On Monday, Berrios called Rauner's announcement a "blatant political stunt" coming "from a governor who just last week complained about being 'not in charge' of the state."

"Like Donald Trump, Bruce Rauner relies on blatant political stunts in a bid to save his failing administration and re-election bid," Berrios said in a statement, defending his record and calling instead on Rauner to resign.

"Wall Street Republicans like Bruce Rauner and Fritz Kaegi have been reckless for the role they played in the financial collapse of our economy while profiting off the backs of working families," Berrios continued. "Bruce Rauner has single-handled dedicated his tenure to attacking working families, women, and children. He has hijacked our state by preventing working families and children from receiving critical services, among other 'accomplishments.'"

"It’s time for Bruce Rauner to 'Shake up Springfield' by doing the people of Illinois a favor - he should admit that he has failed as governor and resign," Berrios' statement ends.

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