By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network
SPRINGFIELD — Mayors at the Capitol for the Illinois Municipal League’s lobby day made no secret they are unhappy with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposal to halve the amount of money cities get from state income taxes.
The Rauner administration response? Essentially, there’s $6 billion mess to clean up, and that job is going to get done.
Mayor Gerald Bennett of Palos Hills said the proposed cut for the coming fiscal year would cost his town about $900,000, or 10 percent to 12 percent of the city’s operating budget.
A portion of the state’s income tax was and is meant for municipalities and is not for the state to unilaterally cut, he argued.
“How disingenuous can you be by saying, ‘I’m not going to balance a (state) budget without raising revenues’ but then turn around and take ours — that’s not a fair playing field,” Bennett said.
The Palos Hills mayor was clear where he stood: “Zero percent, that is a line we are drawing in the sand.”
The governor’s office offered this response:
“Overspending and insider deals put in place by career politicians have created a $6 billion budget hole while the amount of money transferred to local governments over the last decade has skyrocketed by 42 percent.”
“The status quo is broken and unsustainable. As part of his Turnaround Agenda, the governor is giving local residents and governments the tools they need to control costs at the local level and get more value for their tax dollars.”
Some mayors were less critical of Rauner but not less eager to describe the possible reductions in city services.
“We stand ready to support the governor and the Legislature in the difficult decisions they have to make,” Mayor Scott Eisenhauer of Danville said.
“The only thing we are saying is let us be a part of that discussion, let us play a part … at the end of the day, don’t sink the ship just to keep the state afloat,” he said.
Eisenhauer told a story much like several other mayors speaking at a Municipal League press conference at the statehouse.
He said his city had eliminated 61 positions over the last 10 to 15 years and was still trying to provide the same services.
Eisenhauer said Danville stood to lose about $1.6 million, and that’s “not 3 percent, as has been suggested. For us, that’s 7.24 percent.”
The mayors said the cut, if made, would mean layoffs of police, fire and other personnel.
Rauner has proposed cutting local share of income taxes from 8 percent to 4 percent, or roughly from $1.2 billion to about $630 million. He’s said, on average, that means a 3 percent decrease for city budgets.
The mayors were skeptical Rauner’s agenda is an answer in itself.
“Look, we get it, we understand: There’s a lot to be done,” Bennett said. “But it’s not going to be a quid pro quo with taking our revenues away.”