Suburban mayors: Don't take our income tax share
SPRINGFIELD -- Suburban mayors say a Democratic budget plan to freeze the local share of state income taxes could cost municipalities millions of dollars.
Illinois Senate Democrats have pushed the proposal, but their budget plan is far from becoming law.
Now, the state sends local communities 6 percent of state income taxes. Democrats' proposal would freeze the amount of money towns are getting this year, meaning their share wouldn't increase as the state expects to take in more money in income taxes next year.
Suburban mayors say state lawmakers shouldn't try to solve Illinois' budget problems by taking local money.
"They're not solving the problem, they're just shifting the problem," said Buffalo Grove Mayor Jeffrey Braiman.
Mayors are planning a news conference today to air their concerns.
The proposal also comes as House Speaker Michael Madigan has proposed taking millions of dollars in business taxes away from towns, school districts and other local governments to help pay for teacher pensions. That plan, too, is far from becoming law.
But as state lawmakers sprint to meet their budget deadline of May 31, mayors say they're worried.
State Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat and budget negotiator, defended his party's budget plan. It would pay off some of the state's unpaid bills and not cut funding for schools.
Plus, Kotowski said, Democrats' plan wouldn't reduce what towns get -- just not raise it.
"Look at the budget across the board and there are areas within state government where we cut 4 to 5 percent across the board," Kotowski said. "Everything from human services to higher education to all across the state budget, they received cuts. But we're keeping this at the same level."
The Illinois Municipal League estimates communities would lose out on between $20 million and $50 million in increases statewide, depending on how much more in taxes the state collects. That's between $1.63 or $4.07 per person, the group said.
The DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference released a statement decrying the plan.
"DuPage municipalities are already operating on bare-bones budgets and have had to make significant cuts in the past few years," it reads.
It's unclear so far how the House will proceed on the same issue. The House is, generally, looking for more budget cuts than the Senate.
Republicans say they're against the idea, and state Rep. Fred Crespo, a Hoffman Estates Democrat and budget committee chairman, said he'd oppose it.
"It seems like an all-out attack on the suburbs right now," Crespo said.
Local mayors fought this same fight last year after Senate Republicans offered cutting all of the local share of income taxes from local communities as part of a menu of budget-cutting options. In the end, that did not happen.
State Sen. Pam Althoff, a McHenry Republican and former mayor, criticized the Democrats' current plan.
"This is just another way to push down our irresponsible behavior here at the state level onto our local governments, which is absolutely inappropriate," she said.
The Senate's budget proposal wasn't debated at the Capitol Tuesday after getting preliminary approval the day before. What the House will propose for the state budget remains under negotiation, and the two chambers will eventually have to agree on one plan.
And lawmakers' two biggest budget hurdles of the year -- cuts to health care spending for the poor and reforming the state's pension systems -- were still being discussed privately as well.