SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois Senate Democrats put mayors on notice Thursday, starting a debate about whether their local share of state income taxes should be taken away during a "first confrontation" over the state budget.
State Sen. Donne Trotter, a Chicago Democrat, proposed the state keep the projected $1.4 billion in income taxes it usually sends to cities and villages every year.
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Trotter argued the state is broke and called the yearly payments "million-dollar allowances.
"We can't afford to give allowances," Trotter said.
In the end, senators at a hearing Thursday didn't vote on the plan after a long debate, leaving the proposal to perhaps come up again before the legislature's May 31 budget deadline.
"This is the first confrontation we had to have," Trotter said.
Earlier this week, the Daily Herald reported an internal DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference email about lobbying strategy expressed fear that if the group doesn't support an extension of the 2011 income tax hike this year, local governments would see less money. The 2011 increase put the income tax rate at 5 percent, but it's scheduled to drop to 3.75 percent Jan. 1 unless lawmakers vote to keep it higher.
State Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, called Trotter's proposal an effort to "whip mayors into line" behind a tax increase push.
"This looks like a power play," Murphy said.
State Sen. Tom Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat and former mayor there, said he wouldn't support axing the local share of income taxes completely this year. Many lawmakers come from local government backgrounds, which is one reason previous attempts to reduce their share of income taxes have failed in recent years.
Still, Cullerton said, people who rely on state money maybe shouldn't think what they get is automatic.
"I think we might need to find a way to change the culture around here," Cullerton said.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat, won approval from a Senate committee that would slow down spending on some state programs that tend to be paid for automatically, forcing lawmakers to vote for the spending.
"Because there's the automatic check that gets cut, there's not the same level of scrutiny," Kotowski said.
It was approved by an 11-4 vote, with Democrats favoring it and Republicans opposing it.