On Tuesday, the Metro West Council of Governments hosted its 2013 Legislative Breakfast at the Eagle Brook Country Club in Geneva. Metro West is a collective of 31 cities, villages, and towns from Kane, Kendall, and DeKalb counties that represent over 750,000 people. The City of St. Charles is a founding member of Metro West and proudly supports its efforts.
The legislative breakfast was attended by over 140 individuals from local government, private businesses, regional planning agencies, and utility companies. The featured guests were 8 state legislators from the Metro West area. They were:
- Senator Linda Holmes from Aurora
- Representative Stephanie Kifowit from Aurora
- Representative Keith Farnham from Elgin
- Representative Mike Fortner from West Chicago
- Representative Kay Hatcher from Yorkville
- Representative Bob Pritchard from DeKalb
- Representative Tim Schmitz from Batavia
- Representative Mike Tryon from Crystal Lake
At the breakfast, Metro West presented information regarding 3 issues that are important to local cities and villages:
1. Protecting local government revenue including sources received via the State of Illinois and those generated locally.
Local cities and villages rely heavily on state-shared revenue sources - sources paid locally, collected by the State of Illinois, and then remitted to local governments. This includes items like sales tax, telecommunications tax, and income tax.
The state is currently remitting payments to municipalities about 120 days late. These delays can cause difficulties for local governments in paying bills. Legislators were encouraged to do what they can to eliminate the delays. They were also asked to take steps to prevent new laws that would diminish local government revenues that are needed to fund essential services.
2. Including local government public safety pension reform in any pension reform measures considered by the State of Illinois.
Local governments across Illinois are urging Springfield lawmakers to vote in favor of reforms for police officer and firefighter pension systems. In the State of Illinois, the legislature and governor establish the level of pension benefits for local government employees, but contribute nothing to fund those pension benefits. The State of Illinois also establishes the fixed contribution that employees must make. Local governments – and local taxpayers – make up the difference.
If the General Assembly fails to act to reduce the obligations and bring down overall costs, it could translate to higher local property taxes, cuts in essential services, or reductions in programs for local residents across the state.
Reforms such as higher employee contributions, raising the minimum retirement age, increasing the minimum number of years of service to receive a full pension, and freezing cost-of-living increases were proposed as ways to reduce the pension burden.
All legislators said that reform of the state pension systems is the most important issue facing Illinois. Rep. Hatcher referenced Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie "Terminator 2" when she said that you can postpone Judgment Day, but you can't stop it.
3. Support local "bricks and mortar" retailers by ensuring a level-playing field via the Marketplace Fairness Act.
The Marketplace Fairness Act grants states the authority to require on-line and catalog retailers to collect sales tax at the time of a transaction - exactly like local retailers are required to do. This legislation would provide a level-playing field and prevent local stores from becoming mere "showrooms" for consumers to touch and feel merchandise, while then using an internet retailer to make the actual purchase.
St. Charles residents are represented by Representatives Kay Hatcher, Mike Fortner, and Tim Schmitz . They are also represented by Senators Karen McConnaughay and Jim Oberweis. The City of St. Charles encourages local residents and businesses to contact these elected officials and express their concerns on these important issues. Contact information for all St. Charles legislations can be found here.