Springfield Mayor Mike Houston continues trying to gather aldermen’s support for raising the sales tax to fund a long term infrastructure improvement plan.
But the state budget proposed last week by Governor Pat Quinn could pull the rug out from under local governments fighting to keep their ledgers in the black while they address major issues such as crumbling streets, sidewalks and sewers.
Quinn wants to cap cities’ share of state income tax revenues at last year’s levels. That would mean a hit of $622,000 to $1,350,000 to Springfield’s budget.
Houston says he understands the severity of the State’s fiscal problems, but he doesn’t want to see that burden shifted from the Capitol to city halls:
HOUSTON: “The State of Illinois is looking to say ‘Well, gee, that would help solve our problems’. But in solving the state’s problems, they are creating problems for local governments across the State of Illinois.”
Houston says communities smaller than Springfield – with fewer businesses to bring in sales tax revenue and limits on property tax rate – would suffer the most.
Meanwhile, the Mayor continues to push for what he’s called a “comprehensive” infrastructure plan. He thinks boosting the sales tax rate is an equitable way to do that, since tourists and business travelers will also be required to pay their “fair share”:
HOUSTON: “Those people spend a lot of money while they’re here in town. Rather than place the burden entirely on residents of the City of Springfield, this will give us the opportunity to share that burden and take a major step toward dealing with our infrastructure problems.”
Houston says he’ll continue to work to get the five votes he needs on the City Council to approve a one percent sales tax hike. That increase would put Springfield among the highest in the area. Among cities in Central Illinois of comparable size, only Decatur currently has a sales tax rate set at nine percent.
Interview with the Mayor on sales tax increase proposal: [.mp3 – 4:30]
-Peter Gray, WUIS