Mayor Morrissey undeterred by veto

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118296359730228.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘City leaders still hope the General Assembly can override the governors veto of the tax bill.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11829646274579.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) (left) confers with City Administrator Jim Ryan.‘);

Calling sales taxes regressive, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) vetoed Senate Bill 1395 late in the day June 22. Had the governor signed SB 1395, Rockford would have been able to start levying its 1 percentage point sales tax increase July 1—six months early. Despite the eleventh hour veto, Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) still hopes the Illinois General Assembly can make early collection a reality.

“We wish we would have had the veto earlier, but we’ll work with the circumstances,” the mayor said. “The governor did not have to veto it when he did, so we still have a little bit of time.”

Rockford voters approved the increase April 17, with the tax’s start date set for Jan. 1, 2008. Since the referendum’s passage, however, Morrissey and aldermen have made numerous lobbying trips to Springfield to urge Blagojevich’s signing of the bill. If the tax were to start being collected July 1, the Illinois Department of Revenue would funnel the funds back to Rockford in October. Rockford will not be able to put the revenues to work until April 2008 if collection doesn’t begin until January.

Because the Department of Revenue is required to notify all retailers in writing of any increase before July 1, time is exceedingly short for getting the notices into the hands of local merchants.

“It’s our position that it would still be an enforceable law,” Morrissey asserted. Acknowledging some leeway for notification, the mayor added, “We might have to waive the first week of revenue collection from that.”

Although the Department of Revenue has been cooperative with Rockford leaders in making its deadline flexible, the department seems to have drawn the line with the governor’s veto, most likely at the direction of Blagojevich himself.

The governor favors a Gross Receipts Tax over sales and income taxes.

“That’s a philosophical difference,” Morrissey pointed out. “So even though it’s our money, not a state issue, I think he believes that he’s being consistent when he takes action and vetoes the matter.”

Department of Revenue spokesman Mike Klemens indicated June 22 the department would no longer recognize a July 1 starting date for collection—even if Blagojevich’s veto is overridden.

City leaders are optimistic the Department of Revenue will have no choice but to recognize a July 1 collection if the General Assembly overrides the veto.

“They don’t have much choice,” Morrissey said of his interpretation of state law. “They may not like it, but under the law, they’ll have to work with us to collect it.”

The mayor said he and Legal Director Patrick Hayes plan to be in Springfield June 27 when the General Assembly reconvenes. The pair plans to work closely with bill sponsor Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and Rep. Chuck Jefferson (D-67), who was a co-sponsor in the House.

“Our hope is that the matter can get General Assembly approval to override the governor’s veto,” Morrissey explained. “So long as it is done by July 1, it’s our belief that we can encourage and work with the Department of Revenue so that that important sales tax for our entire community can be collected.”

To override the governor’s veto, Rockford will need 71 “yes” votes in the House, 36 in the Senate.

from the June 27-July 4, 2007, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!