Mayors: Rauner’s cut to municipalities increases likelihood of property tax increase

Municipal leaders at a joint panel of the Senate’s two budget committees

Municipal leaders today told a joint panel of the Senate’s two budget committees that Gov. Bruce Rauner’s plan to strip $131 million from Illinois communities could lead to service cuts, job layoffs and possible local tax increases.

Decatur Mayor Julie Moore-Wolfe said her aging central Illinois town has few options for replacing the nearly $1 million lost under the Rauner takeaway. There’s an economic impact, too, she said. For example, recent droughts forced the city to temporarily close car wash operators, and a major manufacturer risked a plant shutdown because the water supply was at severe risk.

State cutbacks also force new fees, such as the one Decatur taxpayers pay to help fund a $90 million lake dredging project. And, Moore-Wolfe added, aging sewers need to be replaced because of government mandates, so water fees were raised to pay for the $76 million effort.

Despite Decatur’s can-do approach, another year without the $1 million the town of nearly 73,000 needs, austere cutbacks are likely.

“I’m going to have to cut the very vital services we offer,” Moore-Wolfe said. “We’re not fluff. We’re police. We’re fire. We’re public safety. We’re clean, safe water. We’re roads and bridges.”

Moore-Wolfe was joined by Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder and Jerome Village President Michael Lopez.

In February, Rauner presented a FY19 budget that recommends spending nearly every nickel of the 2017 income tax increase on bureaucratic agencies under his control. The governor also suggested adding hundreds of millions of dollars in new mandated costs onto local school districts and universities.

As for cutbacks, the governor seeks to deny an estimated $131 million in needed support to local governments.

“I represent 20 local municipalities who’ve balanced their budgets. Year after year, they’ve made tough decisions to limit police, fire and quality-of-life investments because they’ve taken fiscally responsible paths,” State Senator Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park) said.

“Local governments are working to hold the line on spending. To slash their budgets of the funding that’s due to them means they essentially have to consider the backdoor property tax increases that Bruce Rauner is forcing on middle-class taxpayers.”

When Illinois first enacted an income tax in 1969, a deal was struck between Springfield lawmakers and municipal leaders. To ban local leaders from creating local income taxes, about 10 percent of the state’s personal and corporate income tax revenue was shared with municipalities. While those percentages have adjusted over the years, negotiations and agreements have nearly always been coordinated with the Illinois Municipal League.

For the current year’s budget, lawmakers assured local leaders that a 10 percent cutback in LGDF funds would be a one-year approach. Rauner’s budget plan attempts to erase those intentions by holding back millions of desperately needed dollars.

When the panel of local leaders was asked by Hastings whether or not the governor, who is a current Springfield resident, or any of his top aides had consulted any of them regarding the major cut to support, each responded, “No.”