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Mayors join outcry over Rauner budget

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SPRINGFIELD — Local officials from throughout Illinois descended Wednesday on the Capitol, lending their voices to the growing coalition of groups opposed to Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget plan.

Along with labor unions, college students, Amtrak riders, social service agencies, and Democrats, mayors of both political stripes said the governor's proposal for a 50 percent cut to the municipal share of state income taxes would be a devastating blow to local finances.

Decatur Mayor Mike McElroy, a Republican like Rauner, said cities worked hard to weather the financial effects of the Great Recession. Over the past three years, Decatur has pared the city workforce by over 100 employees.

Losing $3.8 million if Rauner's plan is put into place could force further spending cuts at the local level, McElroy said.

"To take this amount of money from the locals, it's just not right," McElroy told reporters at a statehouse press conference.

Throughout the state, mayors are outlining what could happen if the plan is enacted. Marion, for example, is preparing a budget plan without the $800,000 that would be taken by Rauner as a way to close a $6 billion budget hole created when the state's temporary income tax increase expired in January.

Carbondale would see a $1.25 million reduction.

Mayors said the loss of money would likely mean cuts in personnel, including police, fire and public works employees.

"It's a tough situation all of us are facing here," said McElroy.

The opposition is yet another example of the push back underway against Rauner's plan.

In hearings Wednesday, Democrats who control the Legislature, signaled that the Republican chief executive's proposed cuts go too deep.

State Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, said he disagrees with Rauner's plan to cut social service programs.

"I'm just not going to vote for that," Arroyo told his colleagues during a House budget hearing.

Democrats in the Senate issued an analysis of Rauner's budget plan saying it faces potentially insurmountable challenges because it relies on changes to state law that likely are opposed by a majority of lawmakers.

In addition, the analysis raised questions about how Rauner is counting on money from an overhaul of state employee pensions when it likely would be tied up in a court challenge throughout the next fiscal year.

In all, the analysis shows Rauner's budget may be as much as $5.7 billion out of whack.

Hospitals, nursing home operators and other powerful interests also are fighting Rauner's proposed cuts.

As part of Hospital Advocacy Day at the state Capitol, the Illinois Hospital Association said the $750 million cut in Medicaid would result in more than 12,600 lost jobs and nearly $1.8 billion in lost economic activity.

Lawmakers are working toward a May 31 deadline to piece together a spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Rauner said he's hopeful negotiations with lawmakers will result in votes being taken soon.

"We hope to get some bills introduced in the coming weeks," Rauner told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

kurt.erickson@lee.net / 217-782-4043

On Twitter: @Illinois_Stage

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