JOLIET – The city of Joliet is trying to step up its claim on $6.6 million in local casino tax money being held by the state.
Joliet is joining Aurora and Elgin, and perhaps other cities with casinos in calling on Gov. Bruce Rauner to release the money, City Manager Jim Hock told the City Council this week.
Hock said the three cities have agreed to pass a resolution, which the City Council unanimously approved Tuesday, calling on the state to release the money.
Hock said the resolution could be a first step if Joliet ever decides to sue the state of Illinois for the money. But he said the city should try to avoid such action.
“We need to get along with the state,” Hock said, noting the city and state work together on projects and a legal battle could damage the relationship. “It would be much better to have a cooperative agreement with the state.”
The state is holding local shares of casino, video gaming, fuel and 911 taxes. Typically, the local revenue goes to the state, which then sends it on to cities, counties and townships.
But Rauner and legislators have said the money cannot be distributed without a budget that authorizes the spending.
“We don’t believe that they have a legal basis for holding it [the casino money],” Hock told the council. “There isn’t an appropriation that’s required because the money has already been remitted to them by the casinos.”
Councilman Larry Hug suggested Joliet and other casino towns may have to go to court to get the money.
Hock said if the dispute leads to legal action, the lawsuit may come through the Illinois Municipal League, a local government association, to avoid putting individual municipalities at odds with the state.
Hock said the city is missing out on roughly $1.5 million a month in casino taxes alone. The total since July is $6.6 million, according to the resolution passed by the council.
Local officials also worry that the state, facing a budget shortfall, will never distribute the money and use it to pay its own bills.
“My concern,” Councilman John Gerl said, “is that the state will say, ‘Let’s just call it even and not give us anything.’ ”