The day after a Daily Herald report outlined efforts by the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference to trade future "political leverage" for support of extending the state's 5 percent income tax hike, the group has reversed course.
Following an impromptu vote by the taxpayer-funded agency's board of directors Wednesday by phone and email, Executive Director Mark Baloga announced in an email to members that the group will remain neutral on the Democratic-controlled legislature's plan to make the income tax hike permanent.
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"Upon consideration of your feedback, the board on May 7 approved the following motion: That DMMC take no position on pursuing (Local Government Distributive Fund) protective legislation through any expression of conditional support for continuing the 5 percent state income tax rate," Baloga wrote in the email, which was obtained by the Daily Herald.
Naperville City Manager Doug Krieger told the city council at its Tuesday night meeting that he received an email from Baloga at 5:50 p.m. that day requesting input from a city representative on the matter.
Krieger said the council's position was reiterated to Baloga that it would not support making the tax hike permanent. "The level of trust with Springfield was not at a level we felt comfortable dealing with this issue on a conceptual basis," Krieger said. "There is no written legislation that we could analyze or evaluate."
Meanwhile, Krieger and other municipal leaders were unsuccessful Thursday in keeping the Will County Government League from declaring its support for making the tax hike permanent, city officials said. The Will County group joins the Illinois Municipal League and South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association in support of the 5 percent tax hike as long as the municipalities receive a larger cut of the income tax haul.
The law is currently written that the income tax rate would drop to 3.75 percent at the start of 2015. The municipal share would increase enough to maintain the level of funding towns currently receive.
"That's what's on the table now. The problem is Springfield can make its own rules," complained Warrenville Mayor David Brummel. "The Democratic supermajority eliminates any trump cards we can play."
Baloga said the board voted unanimously to remain neutral on the issue.
"Our next steps are to continue pursuing our legislative priorities," Baloga said.
Previously, 13 board members voted 9-4 in favor of pledging the agency's support in return for a larger cut of the taxes generated and more say in other legislative issues affecting municipalities.
"I'm very impressed and surprised they changed positions," said Mickey Straub, Burr Ridge village president. "In the end, I think public and media pressure won the day."
In previous correspondence to members, Baloga stated "the future benefits of creating political capital" was one reason to support efforts to make the tax hike permanent.
Critics called it horse trading.
"This goes to show that sunlight is the best disinfectant," said Kristina Rasmussen, executive vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative organization that tracks and analyzes government spending. "Here was a group that was willing to treat taxpayers like an ATM and they had to walk it back."