DuPage group pushing for all municipalities to get home-rule power
A group representing 33 municipal governments in DuPage County says there shouldn't be haves and have-nots when it comes to home-rule authority.
The DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference wants cities and towns of all sizes across the state to have the ability "to respond to constituent needs and govern themselves."
What DuPage leaders want from SpringfieldThe DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference's 2017 legislative action program includes four "priority" issues that the conference wants state lawmakers to address. They are:
• Ensuring sustainable municipal budgets by making sure revenue generated by local residents and businesses stays local.
• Preserving retirement benefits for police and firefighters by consolidating the 651 individual public safety pension funds into a single multiple-employer pension system.
• Empowering local taxpayers regardless of population by removing the distinction between home-rule and non-home-rule communities.
• Making local businesses more competitive by pursuing workers' compensation reforms.
So the conference is calling on state lawmakers to remove the distinction between home-rule and non-home-rule communities and "eliminate the barriers of non-home-rule authority." It's one of the top priorities listed in the conference's 2017 legislative action program.
"Why not give everybody home rule going forward?" said Warrenville Mayor David Brummel, who serves as president of the conference. "It seems to make sense to us in terms of local control."
Home-rule status gives municipalities the power to pass local laws targeting specific problems not addressed by the state legislature.
"You can make decisions locally about what's best for your community," Brummel said.
Home rule is controversial because it increases a municipality's taxing authority. Decades ago, voters stripped the power away from three DuPage communities -- Lombard, Lisle and Villa Park.
Under the proposed plan, all towns would get home-rule power, but voters would retain the right to go to referendum to eliminate it.
Brummel acknowledges there are people who fear municipalities would abuse such power.
"But I think anyone who takes the time to look at the history of home rule in Illinois would find that those abuses are few and far between," Brummel said.
He said Warrenville has responsibly handled its home-rule authority, which it got as part of a 2004 referendum proposal. City officials even promised not to raise property taxes more than the state's tax cap, which limits tax levy increases to 5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.
Currently, Illinois communities must have more than 25,000 residents to automatically get home-rule status without going to referendum.
Roughly 83 percent of the municipalities in Illinois are non-home-rule communities, according to the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference. About half the towns in DuPage don't have home rule.
Other priority issues the conference wants addressed are ensuring sustainable municipal budgets, preserving retirement benefits for police and firefighters, and making local businesses more competitive.
In the meantime, Brummel said, the "paramount issue" is for lawmakers to resolve the prolonged budget stalemate in Springfield. Right now, payments from the state to municipalities aren't being made in a timely fashion, he said.
"It's imperative that we preserve local tax dollars, institute reforms and advance policies that put the state -- and ultimately our cities, towns and villages -- on solid fiscal footing," said Addison Mayor Rich Veenstra, who serves as the conference's vice president.
Conference leaders say they will collaborate with state lawmakers from DuPage during the spring session to address the issues and find solutions.