We've written extensively in this space about Illinois' ongoing budget woes. A year without a spending plan in place, lack of, or extremely delayed payment of bills, worries over school closures and shortfalls, etc. Like I said, we've written about it, as have many others. Now, 43 Illinois mayors have written about it, too.Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey, Loves Park Mayor Daryl Lindberg, Belvidere Mayor Mike Chamberlain, Village of Rockton Mayor Dale Adams, Oregon Mayor Ken Williams, and Dixon Mayor Liandro Arellano, Jr, are co-signers (along with 37 other Illinois mayors) of an open letter to both citizens and legislators, urging the passing of stopgap Illinois budget bills.

The open letter was published two days ago in the The State Journal Registerand has since been printed and shared by multiple media outlets.

Here's what the mayors had to say:

As the Illinois General Assembly departed Springfield on May 31 without passing a budget, we now face a very uncertain future that affects not only our government, but more importantly, our citizens. As this budget stalemate continues, we need a plan to ensure funding for schools and local government until a comprehensive budget resolution can be reached.

Last year, the General Assembly passed, and Gov. Bruce Rauner signed, a clean K-12 appropriation ensuring schools would be open for business. But as of today, schools around the state have received no appropriation for state funding for this upcoming school year. Without this appropriation, schools are left in the precarious position of trying to figure out how to fill the hole the state budget dollars has left.

While every district has their own unique situation, many will be forced into providing diminished educational and extracurricular opportunities for students, staffing reductions or even the possibility of not opening in the fall. We cannot allow our children’s futures to be threatened by partisan politics in Springfield.

Thankfully, a bill introduced in Springfield by State Rep. Jim Durkin and State Sen. Christine Radogno will fund early childhood, elementary and secondary education for the upcoming school year and ensure our schools open on time this fall. Unlike previously floated education plans, this proposal is fully funded and would not require any additional revenues or add to the state’s ever-increasing bill backlog. Additionally, the bill contains a hold-harmless provision which ensures that any school which would have lost dollars under the current funding formula will at least receive the same amount as they did last year.

There’s no question the current school funding formula is flawed and needs to be changed. But passing this stopgap bill will allow time for a new school funding formula to be negotiated that will help impoverished school districts statewide without detrimentally stripping funding from suburban districts.

Another bill introduced by leaders Durkin and Radogno serves as a bridge to keep government functioning and protects public health, welfare and safety. As mayors, it is critically important that we have much-needed funding to address our local infrastructure needs. This fully funded stopgap budget funds the state’s full road construction program in Fiscal Year 2017, including bridge repair and local government road allocations, which are funded predominantly out of motor fuel tax funds and vehicle registration fees.

The bill also provides appropriations for capital projects in mid-construction that were halted due to lack of appropriation authority in Fiscal Year 2016, including projects for public universities and community colleges. Additionally, this bill provides funds for utilities, food and medical services at state prisons, mental health centers and veterans’ homes. These allocations would allow the state to make payments to the many municipal utilities that are owed money.

This common-sense plan serves as a bridge that allows schools to open, protects public safety and avoids a government shutdown. This plan is fiscally prudent and fully-funded, contrary to the numerous unfunded, out-of- balance spending plans we’ve seen come out of the legislature this session.

We urge you to contact your legislators and encourage them to pass these bills (Education Funding-HB 6583/SB3434, Government Operations-HB6585/SB3435) with the utmost urgency to ensure schools can open this fall and government operations can continue.

For the full list of Illinois mayors signing on to the letter, along with some analysis, check out the story at Reboot Illinois.

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