DuPage officials content with most of General Assembly’s actions

Dan Cronin
Dan Cronin

With the 98th Illinois General Assembly adjourning until after the end of the November elections, the DuPage County Board is taking stock of its legislative agenda for the past year.

“We’re feeling pretty good about what we’ve done,” DuPage County Board Legislative Committee Chairman J.R. McBride said after his committee met Tuesday morning.

Working with county lobbyists and DuPage area legislators, the county fought off attempts to cut into its share of money allocated by the state. The attempt to change the revenue-sharing formula on income and sales taxes, an initiative favored by some in the effort to help Illinois cure its budget woes, wound up going nowhere.

At least one of the proposed changes to the Local Government Distributive Fund would have cost DuPage government approximately $8.5 million in lost revenues, but McBride stressed it would be a battle the county would have to fight again next year.

“Hopefully, they’ll come up with a better structure for next year,” he said.

The county gained in the extension of the 911 wireless surcharge, also for one year. HB 2453 removes the sunset date on the surcharge and increases the revenues local Emergency Telephone System Boards will receive to .64 cents from every dollar collected from the tax on wireless service, up from .57 cents last year.

Helping to make the move possible was the removal of the Poison Control service from the revenue stream generated by the wireless surcharge, with that funding now coming from the state’s health care expenditures.

The increase is estimated to mean an additional $500,000 for DuPage area emergency services groups.

Also slated to increase, for all counties, is funding for county probation departments. Although counties statewide will receive an additional $40 million to operate their probation departments, a large percentage, anywhere from $20 million to $25 million, will go to the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center.

Other revenues allocated in 2014 include capital spending that includes a $626,000 grant for the Graue Mill flood mitigation project in DuPage County, and a five-year, $1.1 billion highway and road project fund, a portion of which will be set aside for county projects.

HB 5263 was adopted and will require local units of government serving a population of less than one million to maintain a uniform single email address for elected officials.

“You should be able to contact the person you elected by email if you have questions,” said DuPage County Board member Jim Zay, who was the county’s point person on the proposal.

One large initiative, public transit reform, which included strengthening the RTA Board, was not considered by lawmakers.

Attempts by some to weaken the RTA Board to the detriment of suburban interests did not succeed, county officials said.

“I guess they (the General Assembly) decided to punt on it,” County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said of reform.

Cronin indicated that he would consult with the entire County Board on the legislative agenda for next year, and stressed that the county’s priorities depended to some degree on the outcome of the November elections.

He also stressed that the continuing fight for public transit reform would likely involve some level of confrontation with the CTA over the allocation of resources in the metropolitan area.

Cronin echoed McBride by noting that the wireless surcharge and current revenue sharing formulas were only extended for one year, so that the fight on those fronts will continue.

“We’re watching it,” he said.

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