Suburban mayors ask state legislature to boost their share of income tax

Suburban mayors are calling on the Illinois General Assembly to restore the local share of state income tax to levels first agreed upon 55 years ago, before cuts began in 2011.

The group of about 50 mayors gathered this week in Elmhurst, where they also urged that lawmakers be more sensitive to the impact of unfunded mandates, particularly while reducing state funding to municipalities and counties.

“The mayors and village presidents standing with us today are not only advocating for the residents of our own communities,” Wheaton Mayor Phil Suess said. “We speak on behalf of 275 cities, towns and villages in the Chicago region. The solutions we are seeking benefit all 12.5 million citizens of Illinois. We are here this morning to reach out to our partners in the General Assembly and urge them to work with us to prioritize continued investments in our communities.”

When Illinois legislators created a state income tax in 1969, they agreed to share a twelfth of it — about 8.3% — through the Local Government Distributive Fund (LGDF) rather than allow smaller units of government to enact their own income taxes.

One of the touted attributes of the fund was that it would be distributed on a per capita basis, ensuring that high- and low-income communities would receive an equitable share — especially as the overall prosperity of the state grew, the mayors said.

In 1993, the amount shared locally went up to 10%. But that was cut to 5.45% in 2017 before starting an incremental rise to 6.06% in 2021, 6.16% in 2023, and 6.47% in fiscal year 2024.

Though they consider the recent increases a step in the right direction, the mayors called on the legislature to enact something more robust, particularly in light of unfunded mandates being passed on to them more regularly.

“The restoration of the LGDF represents not only our commitment to that historic agreement, but of our renewed commitment to maintaining the safety, well-being, and quality of life of our shared residents,” Suess said.

Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod said the 1969 pact was never codified, leaving it basically a handshake agreement that legislators could tweak without penalty whenever they wished.

But he believes it was no coincidence that moment finally arrived in 2011, when the state was responding to financial pressures from pensions and other debts that were intensified by the Great Recession of 2008.

“As one legislator said, ‘It’s our money,’” McLeod said.

But that overlooks the vital services Illinois residents receive from their municipalities and counties, he added.

“We want them to raise what we get,” McLeod said of this week’s unified request.

Hanover Park Mayor Rod Craig said he believes legislators’ openness to the mayors’ message comes down to whether they want to serve their constituents or the political parties supporting their reelection.

“I don’t like being at war with our legislators,” Craig said. “I don’t like it at all.”

About 50 suburban mayors gathered at Elmhurst University on Monday to call on the Illinois General Assembly restore the local share of state income tax to earlier levels. Wheaton Mayor Phil Suess is at the podium. Courtesy of TSAMediaWorldwide
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