It may be difficult to get some proposed reforms being promoted by the Illinois Municipal League through the state legislature, but it’s sure to intensify the debate on a variety of issues some say could save taxpayers money. Earlier this week the Illinois Municipal League put out their nine-measure package called “Moving Cities Forward.” The bills include things like making pass-through money for cities automatic during a budget impasse, allowing smaller cities to rework taxes and other regulations, and measures reforming binding arbitration for public safety jobs and even workers’ comp reforms. Longtime political observer Jim Nowlan says some of the proposals could be non-starters. “Certainly [Speaker Michael] Madigan is not wanting to give anything out that might look like a possible victory for Rauner,” Nowland said. David Yepsen from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University said it’s going to be a heavy lift, but it’s time to have the debate and “let’s get started.” Meanwhile it’s a mixed bag of support from Illinois lawmakers for the package from IML.
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Republican Senator Pamela Althoff, a former mayor of McHenry, said she supports several of the measures, including a measure to require binding arbitration for public safety jobs to include the financial health of cities before deciding on a contract. Another measure Althoff supports would combine pension funds for police and fire, something she said will help increase returns form a larger pool of money being invested. “There’s also the efficiency and the cost savings of having one overall entity managing all of those funds,” Althoff said. However, Democratic Representative Mike Smiddy said he supports the IML backed measure to lower the population threshold for which cities can change taxes and other regulations. “That’s a good thing and maybe they’ll be able to get on the right path without the state’s help,” Smiddy said. Both Althoff and Smiddy say both sides need to come together to find common ground on solutions to help local communities be more efficient for taxpayers. Of the nine measures, IML says automatic appropriation for pass-through money and changing the threshold for home rule status are the most important.