Rockford looks downstate to expedite sales tax increase

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117753077313459.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘With a little help from downstate lawmakers, Mayor Larry Morrissey hopes to bring relief to Rockford’s roads this year.‘);

After Rockford voters approved a referendum for a 1 percentage point sales tax increase April 17, city officials are crossing their fingers in hopes of getting a jump on promised infrastructure improvements. As of now, the sales tax would not increase to 8.25 percent until Jan. 1, 2008, and the city would not see a penny of the revenues until April 2008.

Aldermen, administrators and state lawmakers, however, are racing to put some of that money to work during the 2007 construction season.

Voting unanimously April 23 to pass an ordinance enacting the non-home rule sales tax, the ordinance must now be filed with the Illinois Department of Revenue. More will be required, however, to start collecting the extra penny-on-the-dollar in July.

Some of the city’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) projects for 2007 are contingent on modifying state law to allow for the tax to be collected early.

City Legal Director Patrick Hayes explained current state deadline structure requires ordinances to have been filed by April 1 for July collection. The deadline came more than two weeks before voters were able to decide the referendum’s fate.

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) stated, “If we’re going to start collecting referendum revenue in July of this year, as opposed to January of 2008, we’re looking for our state law to change to make that possible.”

State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-34) is sponsoring a bill in Springfield that would allow the tax to start being collected this July. The difference means the city would get its hands on those funds in October, rather than waiting until April of next year. If approved by the Illinois Senate, Rep. Chuck Jefferson (D-67) will sponsor the bill in the House.

Hayes hopes the deadline change will speed through the Senate and House by April 27 and onto Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s (D) desk. If signed into law, the filing deadline would be extended, making May 1 the last day Rockford could file for July collection.

With fingers crossed, city leaders are hoping state lawmakers act quickly on the bill so Rockford residents will begin seeing dividends of the tax increase before next year.

Syverson, who was against a similar 1 percentage point sales tax referendum last year, favored asking voters for a little less this time around, but remained relatively quiet as the Citizens for Rebuilding Rockford and Winnebago County Taxpayer Advocates waged their campaigns for and against the referendum.

Hayes is confident Syverson is making every effort to get the much-needed improvements rolling as soon as possible.

In addition, Mayor Morrissey said local lobbyists will be in Springfield this week to help push the cause.

from the April 25-May 1, 2007, issue

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