Municipal League backs House plan over Rauner’s to get fuel tax money to municipalities

SPRINGFIELD — A House committee Tuesday advanced a bill to provide money due to local governments from gaming revenue and fuel taxes, but the day ended with the state apparently no closer to resolving its months-long budget impasse.

The House Executive Committee gave its approval to a $1.9 billion bill that authorizes money to be paid to local governments from money that does not involve general state taxes.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s spokeswoman Catherine Kelly calls the measure “another attempt by the Democratic majority to piecemeal together a budget that will force a tax hike on hardworking families without any meaningful reforms.”

However, House Speaker Michael Madigan says the plan uses money that will not be spent by the state government, and so they plan to advance that bill in the House.

Meanwhile, the Rauner administration has an alternate plan that would allow the Illinois Finance Authority to offer towns low-interest loans that could be repaid when the money raised by the gas tax and a 911 surcharge on phone bills is eventually sent out.

The proposal would not require legislative approval. It emerged after Democratic lawmakers advanced a competing plan that would release the gas tax and 911 surcharge money, plus $1 billion to the Illinois Lottery, which stopped paying out on winnings of more than $600 this month, saying its checking account ran dry.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan said he was not familiar with the Rauner administration’s proposal but expected the broader bill to come before the House for a vote when lawmakers return Nov. 10.

The Democratic legislation has the backing of the Illinois Municipal League, which represents local governments.
“Our position is there is no need to take a loan when the state should pay the money that’s owed,” said Brad Cole, the group’s executive director.

The idea behind the Rauner plan might be to get that loan money out the door before the House returns to Springfield next month and therefore spare Republican members from the embarrassment of voting against their local governments.