© 2024 NPR Illinois
The Capital's Community & News Service
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Mayors Protest Governor's Proposed Cuts

Several mayors from around the state say the millions of dollars the governor thinks they have stored up doesn’t exist. Gov. Bruce Rauner has called for halving the portion of the state income tax shared with local governments, called the Local Government Distributive Fund, and said those governments can tap millions in cash reserves. But the mayors warn that if the governor moves ahead with his plan, vital services — like police and fire — would be cut, and municipal workers would be laid off.

The mayors were at the state capitol Wednesday to lobby against Rauner’s proposal.

“This would be a direct hit on our general funds, and I don’t know a city around — that I’ve talked to — that could withstand this,” Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said. His city could lose $2.2 million in a LGDF share cut.

Rockton Mayor Dale Adams says his Winnebego County town would have to lay off four police officers to fill the $380,000 it would lose to the LGDF cut. “Certainly no one in our town wants that,” he said. That in a town with no fire department and a Public Works department that has already been downsized.

The mayors acknowledged the state’s fiscal woes and said they want to partner with the Rauner administration to find a way around cutting local governments’ income tax share.

“All of the municipalities do realize the state is under heavy burden, and we do want to work with the governor,” said North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham. “But I think the governor thinks that each municipality is under the same, level playing field. It is not.”

Rockingham says because his city is home to the Great Lakes naval base, the Veteran Administration’s Lovell Federal Health Care Center and other tax-exempt entities means at least one-third of the Lake County city is not part of the property tax base.

“To have the state cut 50 percent for us, that is $1.6 million out of our budget,” Rockingham said. “It would be a struggle.” He said it would also stall economic development.

Several mayors said their towns are just starting to rebound from the recession that led to “belt tightening” from 2008 to 2010. At that time, there were local service reductions, downsized municipal staffs and other cost cutting.

Rauner has said his proposal to decrease municipalities’ share of the LGDF is part of his effort to deal with an estimated $6.1 billion shortfall for the fiscal year 2016 budget. The proposal, which he made in February, includes cuts to social service programs and transportation districts.

“This huge deficit is the result of years of bad decisions, sleight-of-hand budgeting and giveaways we couldn't afford,” Rauner said in his budget address.

“The reduction in local government sharing in this budget is equal to just 3 percent of their total revenue. Along with this modest cutback, our turnaround reforms will reduce unfunded mandates, and give local governments and voters the tools to save hundreds of millions of dollars through consolidation, employment flexibility and compensation restructuring,” he said.

Many of the items on the chopping block include direct services to the mayors’ residents — including subsidized share-rides for seniors to get to places like doctor’s appointments, and reduced rates for them on public buses.

Some school districts could see state funding decreased, likely prompting a shift to getting more revenue from property taxes. In southern Cook County, towns that depend on policing and investigative services through the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force could see a $97,000 loss. Local police forces — which mayors say they would have to pare down if they lose LGDF dollars — would have to pick up the slack from the task force cuts.

Rhonda Gillespie is in the Public Affairs Reporting graduate program at University of Illinois Springfield and covers state government and politics for Illinois Issues magazine. She was previously managing editor of the Chicago Defender newspaper and a reporter for other Chicago and national news, university and trade outlets. She can be reached at (217) 206-6524.
Related Stories