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With a crowd of federal and state legislators and local government officials in attendance on Jan. 28, the Northwest Municipal Conference (NWMC) introduced a legislative platform to protect Illinois communities that continue to be battered by the economic downturn.  The 2012 NWMC Legislative Program contains numerous recommendations to both ensure the fiscal stability of struggling communities and address continuously escalating labor costs. 

“Local governments such as ours have led the way in pursuing and implementing innovative means to reduce the cost of providing services to our residents and businesses. We have reduced our payrolls, reorganized our services and found ways to simply do more with less,” stated NWMC President and Village of Wilmette President Christopher Canning during his opening remarks, “Yet, all of us know that more work needs to be done.” 

The 2012 NWMC Legislative Program outlines solutions to the challenges faced by local governments. One primary focus of the Legislative Program highlights the need to ensure the fiscal stability of communities by preventing the loss of local government revenues. 

“Our largest concern, especially in light of the lagging rebound in revenues, is the continued threat of cuts to the locally generated share of state collected revenue, such as the recent attempts to divert the Local Government Distributive Fund,” said Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, co-chair of the NWMC Legislative Committee, “Our straightforward message to our state officials is to please work to balance your budget without diverting this or other critical local government revenue sources.”   

The Legislative Program also highlights a number of ways the state could help reduce the escalating local government labor costs, including public safety pension reform, preventing abuse in the award of lifetime healthcare benefits to injured workers and changing the interest arbitration process. 

The interest arbitration process, which is severely out of balance, made it nearly impossible to reach a fair agreement during these negotiations,” pointed out Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod, co-chair of the NWMC Legislative Committee, “Arbitrators often ignore the municipality’s fiscal conditions and believe that local government should simply raise taxes to afford generous arbitration awards.”    

Following the presentation of the Legislative Program, legislators in attendance were invited to address the gathering to share their perspectives on the coming legislative session.  Those who spoke to the attendees included: Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky; State Treasurer Dan Rutherford; State Senators Susan Garrett, Terry Link and Matt Murphy; State Representatives Daniel Biss, Robyn Gabel, David Harris, Lou Lang, Michael McAuliffe, Tom Morrison, Michelle Mussman, Elaine Nekritz, Carol Sente and Ed Sullivan; Lake County Board Chairman David Stolman; and Cook County Commissioners Bridget Gainer, Tim Schneider and Larry Suffredin. 

Copies of the 2012 NWMC Legislative Program can be downloaded at:

http://www.nwmc-cog.org/Legislation/2012-Legislative-Program.aspx.