Will state extend your tax increase? Madigan is gathering votes

News-DemocratMay 14, 2014 

Concealed Carry Illinois

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.

SCOTT EISEN — AP

— Democrats in the Illinois House began advancing a budget Wednesday that is built on the presumption that the legislature will extend the state's temporary income tax increase.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said setting the spending plan first will "set the bar" and help convince House members to vote for the tax increase.

But Republican House member Dennis Reboletti of Elmhurst said setting a budget, before knowing revenue, is putting the cart before the horse.

"That's not how a business operates. That's not how my family operates its budget," Reboletti said, adding that you don't buy a new house and "hope to have more money."

House Democrats on Wednesday began advancing a budget plan mirroring the $38 billion budget Gov. Pat Quinn outlined in March, which keeps current tax rates in place.

The state's income tax is scheduled to roll back in January, dropping from 5 percent to 3.75 percent. That would cause an estimated loss of at least $1.6 billion in revenue next year for the state.

The budget could come to a vote on the House floor as early as Thursday. The General Assembly's spring session ends May 31, but Madigan won't be able to wait until the last minute to call for a vote on the tax. One of his members, Rep. Derrick Smith, D-Chicago, goes on trial May 28 on federal bribery charges.

It's unclear if there are enough votes in the Democrat-controlled House to make the tax hike permanent. Madigan reportedly is prepared to offer construction projects and other enticements to House members if they vote for the tax increase.

Quinn's administration has been turning up the heat on lawmakers, pointing out severe cuts to state services and school funding that will result if the tax increase goes away. Quinn's office compiled a list showing the impact on every school district.

For example:

* East. St. Louis District 189 would get about $53 million in state grants in the upcoming fiscal year if the tax remains, or about $46 million if the tax goes away.

* Cahokia District 187 would get about $30.3 million in state grants in the upcoming fiscal year if the tax remains, or about $26.3 million if the tax goes away.

* Belleville District 118 would get about $19.4 million in state grants in the upcoming fiscal year if the tax remains, or about $16.8 million if the tax goes away.

* Belleville Township High School District 201 would get about $14.2 million in state grants in the upcoming fiscal year if the tax remains, or about $12.3 million if the tax goes away.

Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, said the budget and tax issues are "the 500-pound tyrannosaurus rex" for the legislature. Haine said he hasn't decided yet how he'll vote on the tax.

"Well, if the tax is not extended, it'll be a dramatic reduction in public money going into nursing homes, hospitals, SIUE, community colleges, our public schools. There'll be massive layoffs; State Police will be laid off. It'll be across the board," Haine said.

He added, "I want to see the Republican budget, where they say we can cut. I want to see their proposals, to be fair."

Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, predicts the tax will be made permanent.

"I suspect they'll find the votes. But they're not going to make it a simple vote -- on whether you are for it or against it, period. I think they're going to add stuff to it, to entice people to vote for it," Luechtefeld said.

Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, said Democrats "broke their promise by going back on their pledge to let the income tax hike expire." He also said Democrats are trying to give themselves a 4.6 percent salary increase by approving a budget that eliminates furlough days for themselves and grants them a cost-of-living adjustment.

"Taxpayers are being asked to pay more, and Democrats want to give themselves a raise," Kay said. He said he was filing a bill Wednesday that calls for a continuation of furlough days for legislators and a rejection of the COLA increase.

Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, has said there's talk of pursuing another temporary tax hike, due to the possible shortage of votes for a permanent increase. Costello said he'll vote against an extension or making it permanent.

Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at bbrueggemann@bnd.com or 239-2511.

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