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Illinois mayors fight for state funding: 'We've taxed enough'

(Photo by Rachel Droze)

Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed to continue to withhold more than $100 million from municipalities across Illinois in Fiscal Year 2019 to help balance the state's budget.

City leaders said that reduction could really hurt, especially since many of them are already trying to balance bloated budgets.

“It’s going to hurt the residents of our cities,” Decatur Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe said.

The state's Local Government Distributive Fund was cut by 10 percent last year.

It was meant to be a one-time reduction according to Democrats.

In his 2019 budget proposal, Rauner proposed to keep that reduction in place.

“It’s hard because we don’t want to go back and tax our residents, we’ve taxed enough,” Moore Wolfe said.

In Decatur and Springfield, last year's reduction meant a $1 million cut in state funding.

“City governments are about people, firemen, police, public works, the water department people, people who patch the pot holes,” Moore Wolfe said. “That’s the only place we have to cut.”

“There are some municipalities that view this as a back-door tax increase because the state isn’t doing it themselves,” said Bill McCarty, director of Springfield's Office of Budget and Management. “They force [some] local governments to go down and do it and tax their citizens in order to make up for the revenue that the state has taken.”

Ongoing cuts to state funding will also hurt the Village of Jerome.

“We would have to reduce the frequencies of services like branch pickup, also some civic events and some fees that we pay for our village wide cleanup,” Jerome's Village President Mike Lopez said.

Lopez said this year, they’re hoping to continue those services.

Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said Illinois’ ongoing budget crisis has left lawmakers no choice but to make difficult cuts.

“This is a tough process and tough choices have to be made and the municipalities have to make those tough choices too,” Righter said.

Righter and the city leaders that testified Wednesday said while there may be disagreements, it’s helpful to have an open dialog when making budget-related decisions.

"Every municipality is different and that’s why we need to have that conversation," Righter said. "That’s the only way to really assess the harm a funding cut would impose."

"From what I heard from the other mayors', Springfield and Decatur, we are blessed to be talking and voicing our opinion today and we'll see what happens," Lopez said.

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