When Rockford voters approved a one percent sales tax increase in April, city leaders thought campaigning was over. But now they've got a new challenge. Governor Blagojevich vetoed a measure that would have allowed Rockford to begin collecting money from the increased tax July 1st. So now city leaders must persuade both the state house and senate to override the governor with a three-fifths majority vote and it's got to pass by Thursday or city leaders won't be able to start necessary road projects until next year.
"The legislature's not going to meet tomorrow on Tuesday, but they will meet on Wednesday. We'll have a delegation down there on Wednesday to follow up on this," says Rockford Alderman Pat Curran.
If the legislature goes ahead with the override, there's still the matter of notifying the 6,150 entities in Rockford that will collect the increased tax and getting everything in order to begin collecting it next week. The Department of Revenue has said there may not be enough time to do that. But city leaders are prepared to fight that as well.
"Our reading of the law is that as long as it gets passed and becomes law by July 1st, they don't have much choice. They may not like it, but under the law they'll have to work with us to collect it," says Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey.
If necessary, there could be a grace period to allow Rockford merchants to get up to speed. In the face of all this maneuvering many aldermen regret that Governor Blagojevich made things so tough.
"You've got the people of Rockford who said yeah we want to do this. We want to fix our streets. We're willing to kick in another penny on sales tax, we want our streets done. You've got a governor who says, no I don't think so," says Alderman Curran.
Governor Blagojevich has said he went ahead with the veto on Friday because he believes sale taxes effect consumers disproportionally. But many aldermen say in this case that's not his choice to make.
The increased tax must be enforced July 1st, or Rockford will have to wait until January 1st to collect the funds. The council does have the option to ask for an advance from the city's savings to begin road projects earlier, but that's a fiscally risky move aldermen say they'll try to avoid.