Christiansen: State to ‘raid’ local coffers

By Stuart R. Wahlin
Staff Writer

Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) issued a press release May 7 lambasting a bill that passed both houses of the General Assembly two days earlier.

Senate Bill 3695 is aimed at keeping nearly 500 state troopers on the job, but Christiansen said it’s on the backs of local governments.

“At this point, it appears that SB 3695 is nothing more than another raid on local dollars to support the state,” Christiansen asserted.

Brian Day, a staff attorney for the Illinois Municipal League, which opposes the bill, explained the measure would essentially give the state a cut of court fees and fines collected by local governments.

“The bill, as amended in the House, creates the State Police Operations Assistance Fund in the state treasury, which will be funded from fees collected by the court clerks under the Clerks of Courts Act,” Day indicated. “Under the bill, a clerk of the circuit court in any county that imposes fees for automated record keeping, must also charge and collect an additional fee in an amount equal to that amount to be paid by the defendant in any felony, traffic, misdemeanor, local ordinance, or conservation case upon a judgment of guilty or grant of supervision. Due to the way that fines and fees are collected and distributed under Illinois Supreme Court Rules, this will reduce the money received by local jurisdictions in these cases.”

State senators Brad Burzynski (R-35) and Dave Syverson (R-34) voted against SB 3695. In the House, however, representatives Chuck Jefferson (D-67) and Ron Wait (R-69) signed on as sponsors of the bill.

Neither responded for comment.

According to numbers provided by Circuit Clerk Tom Klein (R), the state would essentially take $15 of a $75 fine. The state’s piece comes at the expense of the county’s general fund, the state treasurer and municipal governments.

Meantime, Christiansen noted, local governments are prevented from increasing another revenue stream to counteract the bill.

“At a minimum, the [Illinois] Supreme Court needs to raise the bond amount from $75 to $120 to reflect the rate of inflation over the past 20 years,” he added.

Revisions to the county’s general fund for 2010 project revenues of $3,256,760 less than anticipated. $1,528,000 of the shortfall is directly attributed to reimbursements owed by the state, the largest of which is $987,000 for probation services. When combined with approximately $2 million in additional unpaid reimbursements owed by the state for probation, detention and pre-trial services in recent years, Christiansen noted, “This effectively accounts for the entire general fund shortfall in our current budget year.”

SB 3695 now awaits the signature of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) to be signed into law.

From the May 12-18, 2010 issue

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