Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Groups pick sides on home rule

By Jim Hagerty

ROCKFORD — The Rockford Hotel Motel Association (RAHMA) announced Thursday that it does not support the referendum to reinstate home rule while a political action committee leader says his group does.

Spokesmen said the RAHMA believes a return to home rule would mean more taxes on businesses and those visiting Rockford. The association, therefore, is encouraging voters to vote “no” on the March 20 referendum.

The association’s biggest point of concern is Rockford’s hotel tax the city could increase with home rule powers. The group fears a tax hike would not be applied to tourism, which it says would diminish Rockford’s appeal as a destination.

“The voters of Rockford eliminated home rule in 1983 citing over taxation,” the association said in a news release. “If home rule is reinstated, the city plans to increase the hotel lodging tax. Five years ago, Winnebago County Board Members approved a 2-percent tax increase on hotel stays, raising the hotel tax from 12 percent to 14 percent. The hotels supported that increase, as it was specifically earmarked for improvements to the Loves Park Sports complex,  Sportscore Two and the downtown UW Sports Factory. (These) projects have brought in additional revenue to the local hotels and area businesses.

“The supporters of home rule claim this will lift the burden on property taxpayers. The property tax is already capped and one of the highest in the country. The city cannot simply lower the property tax, but are rather using this as a
means to support their cause.”

Although city officials say the hotel tax is one home rule would affect, they have not announced an intention to raise it. Leaders have also noted that Rockford’s property taxes are some of the highest in the nation and have swelled by almost 80 percent since home rule was repealed.

“The misconception is that home rule will increase property taxes,” former mayoral candidate, aerospace engineer Rudy Valdez said in an earlier report. “It is actually the other way around.”

Meanwhile, the Rockford Regional Good Government PAC, which supported Tom McNamara’s bid for mayor in 2016, announced it is encouraging voters to give local control back to city leaders by voting for home rule in March.

The group says home gives allows city officials to better face fiscal challenges, enhance economic competitiveness for the region, and improve the quality of life for citizens.

“Restoring home rule authority will add a critical tool to our ability to enact local policies and
advance projects that improve the health and prosperity of our community,” PAC Chairman Peter
Provenzano said.

Part of the PAC’s endorsement includes a $5,000 contribution to the Rockford for Home Rule campaign launched last fall. R.

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