Mayors urge lawmakers not to cut municipal revenues
SPRINGFIELD -- Calling it a “big hit,” Springfield Mayor Mike Houston and dozens of other Illinois mayors on Wednesday urged lawmakers not to reduce revenue cities and villages share with the state, but Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration said such cuts are unlikely to happen anyway.
Houston said the city gets $2.8 million from the local government distributive fund. Cutting or eliminating that funding would be devastating to Springfield and other cities throughout Illinois, he said.
“This is something that has been in existence for a long period of time,” Houston said in a news conference at the Statehouse. “It’s a partnership. If those funds are cut, it is going to mean tax increases and reduction all across the state of Illinois.
“The solution is not passing the problem on to the local governments of the state of Illinois.”
But Kelly Kraft, a spokeswoman for the governor’s budget office, cast doubt over the future of any proposal to reduce revenue-sharing with local governments.
Gov. Pat Quinn raised the idea of stopping such payments in an effort to get local governments to support his idea to borrow money to pay the state’s backlog of unpaid bills, according to a recent Chicago Tribune story. Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has estimated the amount owed by the state will reach $8 billion by the end of the fiscal year.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, noted recently that, in the face of state budget crises, local governments across the country have lost state funding. Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, on the other hand, has opposed such reductions.
Neither of the two budgets that have been approved, respectively, by the House and the Senate nor Quinn’s own proposed budget have called for eliminating or reducing state support for local governments.
Kraft said the governor’s idea was a first draft.
“It was a delay, not an elimination,” Kraft said. “Right now, they’re (cities) paid through January ... How would this help get other people paid?
“It’s not something that’s on the forefront.”
Asked why local government should be spared when so many other agencies funded by state government are being cut, Houston said no other type of spending reduction would cause the widespread damage that a cut to local government funding would.
“When you go to a local governmental unit, basically you’re not talking programs, you’re talking people,” Houston said. “And the way you’re delivering services are through people. And if we don’t have people, we can’t deliver services.”
Chris Wetterich can be reached at (217) 788-1523.