* Despite various attempts to downplay the significance of the governor’s proposed budget cuts, the reality is that’s it’s February 20th - meaning the only budget plan we have right now is the governor’s. And since that’s the case, the media will naturally gauge the impact of what the governor wants to do.
Seth Richardson at the SJ-R has an interesting story about the governor’s 50 percent cut in municipal revenue sharing…
In his budget speech, Rauner said the reduction would only account for three percent of local municipalities’ budgets. But Illinois Municipal League legislative director Joe McCoy said every community would feel the pain, but smaller communities might fare worse.
“If a community doesn’t have a very vibrant array of other taxes that they can generate revenue from, then (the Local Government Distributive Fund) becomes that much more important,” McCoy said. “So I think it is a community-by-community issue, and there are a lot of communities that rely much more heavily on LGDF, and those would feel the most impact.”
He said some communities with smaller tax bases and no businesses rely on the fund for 15 percent to 20 percent of their budgets.
The likely outcome, according to several mayors, is the reduction of public safety personnel. [Springfield Mayor Mike Houston] said if Rauner’s decrease passes, the city would have to look at laying off personnel, likely in public safety, which takes up 70 percent of the $118 million total budget.
Cutting budgets is like that old saying about bank robbery: You go where the money is. The local money is in public safety. And the same goes for the state. If you’re not cutting P-12, some very big money is in local government.
* Phil Kadner takes a look at the governor’s claim Wednesday that local governments are sitting on a $15 billion cash pile of reserves…
The governor’s office said the $15 billion estimate of local government reserve funds came from the state comptroller’s office, but that office’s figures total about $18 billion.
Municipalities have roughly $6.5 billion in fund balances, counties have $3.4 billion, townships $894 million, park districts $862 million, fire protection districts $540 million, public library districts around $400 million and special purpose districts $944 million, according to the comptroller’s office.
It said Cook County, the city of Chicago, the Chicago Police Department, the Regional Transportation Authority and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District have a combined $4.4 billion in reserve fund balances. […]
[Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin] said Orland Park has about $20 million in reserve on a $50 million annual operating budget “because we’ve been doing what the state should have been doing all these years” — living within a budget. He said the village has a policy of keeping 20 percent of its operating budget in reserve.
* And in Lake County…
“Instead of fixing the state, he’s coming after local governments,” Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said Wednesday afternoon. “I’m not happy at all. Gurnee has its house in order — we have a AAA bond rating, no local property tax and exceptional services. I don’t know why he’s decided to pick on us.” […]
“I was very hopeful about the new governor. I’m so disappointed,” she said. “He’s ignoring everything at the state level and coming after the local guys.”
“Municipalities throughout the state have been pickpocketed for years by Springfield, and now Governor Rauner’s proposal to eliminate 50 percent is akin to armed robbery,” Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns said.
Armed robbery? Pretty strong words for Geneva’s mayor.
* In other budget-cutting news, the Tribune looks at the governor’s proposed $400 million cut to higher education…
The new Republican governor’s move follows a pattern of higher education funding reductions embraced by fellow GOP governors such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, a pair of Republicans who like to burnish their bonafides with their political bases. […]
When a variety of restricted funds are added in for categories like research and student housing, [UIUC] operates on an overall $5.6 billion budget.
That’s the figure Rauner’s team prefers to focus upon when looking at public universities as it tries to defuse a bit of the political blowback to the governor’s proposed funding cuts. Through that lens, the cuts are closer to 6 percent of total revenues going to universities.
The Rauner administration also counts general state funds that go into the university pension funds — a number that budget officials estimate is more than $1 billion — along with hundreds of millions more for health care. […]
“They’ve taken hits for a long time,” said Sen. David Luechtefeld, the Republican spokesman on the Senate Higher Education Committee. “I think they’re pretty close to rock bottom.”
* And at NIU…
Northern Illinois University officials are considering reducing staff, restructuring academic programs and pursuing more grants after Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget proposal included a 31 percent cut in NIU’s state funding.