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Lack Of Rauner Support Kills Cell-Phone Bill Hike To Support 911

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Illinois legislators have abandoned a bipartisan effort to increase funding for 911 services. People involved in the negotiations say Gov. Bruce Rauner got Republicans to pull their support.

Dispatchers, phone companies, and local governments had been in agreement that the 911 fee on cell phone bills should be increased to keep the emergency-response service going and to add new technology. They say the cost of keeping the service running is falling increasingly on local governments.

The plan was to increase a fee on cell phone bills across the state. State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, says there had been wide agreement.

“We thought we had a good deal in place where Chicago was going to get up to five bucks, and Downstate and everywhere else was going to get to a 1.50 from 87 cents, and that’s a heck of an increase,” he said. “Evidently, the way I’m understanding, is that the governor pretty much pulled the Republicans and said ‘We don’t want to give Mayor Emanuel any more money.’”  

Negotiators involved with the legislation say the governor’s office killed the agreement.

“My understanding of where it bogged down was this notion that there were perhaps disagreement between the City of Chicago and others,” said State Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, noting he had been ready to lend his support when talks broke down.

State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, says Republicans told him the governor wanted to ding the city of Chicago

“I was told point blank they didn’t want to give Chicago any more money,” he said.

Others involved in the negotiations back up that claim. Rauner previously criticized Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for financial mismanagement and failing to support his agenda.

A spokeswoman for Rauner did not directly address the charge of interference. She says the governor supports a different plan that would keep the current, lower fees in place for another two years.

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Tom reports on statehouse issues for NPR Illinois. He's currently a Public Affairs Reporting graduate program student at the University of Illinois Springfield. He graduated from Macalester College. Tom is from New York City where he also did stand-up and improv and wrote for the Awl and WNYC public radio.