Byline: Matt Arado Daily Herald Staff Writer
Towns across Illinois are accusing Republican legislators of trying to solve the state's financial problems by passing them on to local governments.
But GOP leaders say their spending plan merely asks local governments to play a fair role in pulling the state out of its budget crisis.
The Republicans' plan, which they presented to the General Assembly on April 24, calls for a reduction in the amount of money each town in Illinois receives from the state income tax pool. The plan would reduce towns' share of the tax from one-tenth of the total amount collected to one-eleventh.
The state distributes the money on a per-capita basis, so the amount of revenue each town would lose is based on its population. A small town like Long Grove stands to lose about $45,000. Naperville would lose a little more than $800,000.
The Republican spending plan also calls for the elimination of local governments' share of the state photo processing tax. If this cut were approved, towns would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional revenue, with the amount again depending on their population.
Republican lawmakers say reducing the amount of revenue given to local governments would free up more than $100 million that the state could use to ease its current budget woes. Gov. George Ryan recently said the state faces a deficit of $2 billion.
"The state is in the middle of a dire crisis right now," said Patty Schuh, spokeswoman for Illinois Senate President James "Pate" Philip, a Wood Dale Republican. "Our spending plan shows that we can balance the budget, but it requires all of us, the local governments included, to take a financial hit."
Municipal leaders, though, say they're already taking a hit. The national economic downturn that began in 2000, coupled with the financial effects of last year's terrorist attacks, forced many towns to scale back their budgets this year in light of plummeting revenues.
Given this, municipal leaders say it's unfair of the state to try to pull even more money out of their coffers.
"You never see the local governments going to the state when times are tight and demanding that the state hand over some money," said Ken Alderson, executive director of the Illinois Municipal League. "This money is used to pay for local services, whether it's water, fire protection, or road repair. How can the state say that local governments should just do without it?"
Whether the allocation cuts will actually be incorporated into the state's budget is still undecided. Lawmakers are looking at a variety of ways to balance the budget, which they hope to accomplish by the end of the month.
While the negotiations continue in Springfield, municipalities are trying to make themselves heard on the issue of the revenue allocations. The proposed cuts would come months after most towns have approved their budgets for the year. …