(The Center Square) – A measure backed by Illinois’ mayors would put the distribution of some state-collected tax dollars on autopilot should Illinois lawmakers again fail to pass a budget.

State Rep. Debbie Meyers-Martin, D-Olympia Fields, filed House Bill 42 on Jan. 13. It would make local allocations from Illinois’ State and Local Sales Tax Reform Fund, the Motor Fuel Tax Fund, the State Gaming Fund, the Local Government Video Gaming Distributive Fund, and the Statewide 9-1-1 Fund automatic.

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Supporters say the legislation would protect local municipalities from any new budget chaos at the state level like what was seen in 2015.

“This is something that we’ve fought for decades with the General Assembly,” said Brad Cole, president of the Illinois Municipal League. “We’re hoping that new leadership will allow this to change from an annual appropriation to a continuing appropriation.”

These funds are separate from the Local Government Distributive Fund, which is reportedly in consideration of being reduced to cover the state’s budget deficit.

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Illinois lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner began a month’s-long showdown starting in July of 2015 that lasted until August 2017. It resulted in multiple credit downgrades, state-funded facility closures, billions of dollars in backlogged bills, and a 32% income tax increase.

State-collected tax revenue meant for local governments mostly sat idle during that years-long budget battle until an agreement was struck to send out the money.

“Communities will be able to get the dollars that are required to go to them by law but the General Assembly has had to act on every year previously,” Cole said.

Much of Illinois’ governmental spending continued during the budget impasse because it was “continuing appropriations,” akin to what Meyers-Martin’s bill seeks for the local funds. Others were court-ordered expenditures that couldn’t have been cut.

- Cole Lauterbach, staff reporter, The Center Square

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