Mayors from 11 cities in southern Illinois came together Wednesday to push back against budget cuts proposed by Gov. Bruce Rauner. The mayors held a press conference at the Belleville City Hall to detail how "devastating" the proposed cuts could be to their respective towns.
"These proposed cuts that are facing cities at this time could be very, very devastating," said Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert. "We know that our state truly has some severe financial problems and challenges, we don't deny that.
"We don't deny that some tough decisions have to be made. "We want to work with Springfield but these problems cannot be balanced on the backs of cities," he added. "We have too much that we are responsible for every day."
In his first budget address, Rauner proposed cuts to the Local Government Distributive Fund (LGDF), reducing the fund from 8 percent to 4 percent. As a result, the fund, which is a portion of state income tax that is funneled to local governments, will go down from about $1.2 billion to $643 million. The governor, who has previously said that the reduction would only impact three percent of municipal budgets in the state, tried to assuage the concerns of the 11 mayors via a statement issued by his spokeperson.
"The governor has asked local communities to help him pass the Turnaround Agenda to help restructure state government, which will make it more efficient and free up resources so reductions do not have to be as drastic," Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly wrote in a statement.
"Years of irresponsible budgeting and insider deals have left Illinois with a $6 billion budget hole, and without structural reform, difficult decisions had to be made to get Illinois back on sound financial footing," she added. "The amount of money transferred to local governments has ballooned by 42 percent in the last decade and the reduction to local governments proposed in the budget puts Illinois in line with neighboring states."
The Illinois Municipal League estimated that the 11 towns represented by the mayors at the Wednesday press conference would see the following cuts in state funding if Rauner's proposal passes:
- Alton: $1.3 million
- Belleville: $2.2 million
- Collinsville: $1.2 million
- Columbia: $480,497
- Fairview Heights: $832,490
- Godfrey: $700,000
- Mascoutah: $366,000
- New Athens: $100,000
- Red Bud: $177,320
- Smithton: $185,000
- Waterloo: $480,444
Eckert said his town, Belleville, would likely have to lay off police officers, close a fire station, and consider a tax increase if the LGDF is reduced by 50 percent. The coalition of mayors hope to meet with the governor during his next scheduled visit to the area.