Muni League: Winter is coming, release funds; Moody’s: Chicago’s budget too reliant on state; and more from INN radio

Muni League: Winter is coming, release funds
Winter is coming and the Illinois Municipal League is sounding an alarm over shared resources from the state being held up during the ongoing budget impasse. IML Executive Director Brad Cole says they’re undertaking an effort to unify local governments to urge the state to release various funds owed to local governments. Cole says the money is important to pay for road salt and drivers who clear local roads.

“Again, these are dollars that do not impact the state budget. They’re passthrough money that’s charged locally, collected by the state and then returned to cities. So, if the General Assembly and the Governor can come together and release those funds then the problem is solved. If not, I think most municipalities are gonna have a hard time getting through the winter.”

Effingham County: We absolutely need motor fuel tax funds
With the winter months approaching, and the snow and ice that comes with it, local governments may begin to feel the cold sting of the state budget impasse–especially the state holding on to motor fuel tax money shared with local governments. Effingham County Board Chairman Jim Niemann says several truck stops alongside an interstate in his county generate a lot of motor fuel tax revenue that the state is holding onto during the ongoing budget impasse.

“If we don’t see some funding out of Springfield out of like the Local Government Distributive Fund or the Motor Fuel Tax fund we will be hitting our reserves for certain.”

Niemann says if the state doesn’t release the money he expects his county will run their reserves dry by Spring.

Freeport Mayor: Lack of funds extreme predicament
Freeport Mayor Jim Gitz says his community in northwestern Illinois typically gets upwards to $600,000 from motor fuel tax money and because of the state budget impasse they’re going to feel the pinch.

“The lack of pay over puts us in an extreme predicament this winter and next year as to how we’re going to fund projects and how we’re going to maintain our streets and for that matter how we’re going to do basic maintenance functions like plowing and patching.”

Gitz also says his community depends on other funds from the state, including money from video poker machines.

A letter template available on the IML website urges the release of money from Motor Fuel Tax, casino fees, video gaming fees, Use Tax and 9-1-1 service fees saying distributing the funds will have no impact on the state budget. There are several bills pending in the legislature to release the money during the ongoing budget impasse which is now near the five month mark. IML says time is of the essence for the letters to be released because of several upcoming General Assembly sessions and a planned meeting between the Governor and legislative leaders.

Vendor cuts ties with IDOC
The Illinois Department of Corrections is turning over five tractor trailers to a vendor that is cutting ties with the state because of a lack of payment. A spokesperson for IDOC says because of the quote “failure of the majority party to pass a balanced budget with much needed reforms” the Department will turn over the trucks to the Larson Group. A representative for the Springfield, Missouri, based trucking company was not available for comment. IDOC says the trucks were used to transport goods for the Illinois Correctional Industries, the organization that employs Illinois inmates to make a variety of products, and that ICI will use current vehicles in their fleet to for weekly food runs. In an email IDOC says they strongly urge Democrats in the General Assembly to work with the Governor to craft a budget that funds critical services and implements reforms to quote “put Illinois on a path of solvency.” Speaker Michael Madigan spokesman Steve Brown says the vendor cutting ties with IDOC is another quote “bungle” and budget bills were sent to the governor who chose to veto rather than use his reduction veto authority.

Report: Bureaucracy hinders Corrections hiring
Measures meant to diminish improper political influence has lead to bureaucratic barriers in hiring at the Illinois Department of Corrections. That’s a complex problem the John Howard Association of Illinois says needs straightforward solutions. In a policy paper released Thursday, the prison watchdog group says despite Governor Bruce Rauner’s executive order from earlier this year giving Central Management Services the authority to quote “replace, modify or terminate” the current state hiring practice, staff administrators at the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice reported their hiring procedures remained unchanged. The report says understaffing of key positions is a serious, longstanding problem and failure to fill vacancies undermines institutional and public safety, prevents inmates from receiving essential services and increases state spending through overtime.

Moody’s: Chicago’s budget too reliant on state; Rauner: No bailout
Despite increasing taxes, the City of Chicago passed a budget that’s too reliant on assistance from the state, according to a ratings agency. Moody’s investors service says the Chicago budget passed Wednesday assumes certain actions from the the State of Illinois and the Illinois Supreme Court that impacts the city’s statutory pension funding requirements. Governor Bruce Rauner told the Southern Illinoisan newspaper editorial board earlier this month he won’t bail out the Windy City unless they come to bat for state reforms.

“What I will do is help you restructure and get through your problems and I can give you the power to do that, and I will do that if you help us. If you don’t help us get the reforms we need to make the state healthy I will do nothing, I repeat–nothing, for the City of Chicago and in fact I will block anything you try to do.”

Rauner said Chicago is quote “in deep yogurt” and shouldn’t be given special carve outs while other parts of the state have to follow strict mandates on various issues. Meanwhile the Illinois Supreme Court has scheduled November 17th to hear a challenge to Chicago’s pension reform. Moody’s says if state government and the Supreme Court decisions don’t match the city’s assumptions there will be new pressures in the immediate and longer-term and a tax increase won’t be sufficient to slow the growth of the city’s unfunded pension liability.

Who’s compromised more?
The leading state Republican and the spokesman for the leading state Democrat differ on what they’ve compromised on. Governor Bruce Rauner says he’s narrowed down items on his agenda, including taking so-called “right-to-work” off the table. But the Governor insists on other reforms before agreeing to tax increases to shore up the state budget. Rauner said he won’t discuss publicly what his so-called red line is but told the Southern Illinoisan newspaper editorial board earlier this month that local control of prevailing wage and collective bargaining tied to a property tax freeze is important. Rauner also put emphasis on workers compensation reform.

“Workers comp is broken in Illinois. It’s one of the major drivers of businesses leaving the state. It’s a major cost driver inside government.”

Rauner says he’s getting pushback on his requested reforms because of special interests. Steve Brown, spokesperson for Speaker Michael Madigan, said Democrats have compromised on a variety of issues like freezing lawmaker pay and privatizing the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, among others.

“So, I think more than halfway is an understatement in terms of what the legislature has done with the Rauner agenda.”

Brown also say the General Assembly passed quote “significant” changes to workers compensation but Republicans criticized the workers comp measure passed earlier this year as not addressing what defines an injury eligible for payouts.