The Illinois Senate has ditched its promise to vote on a compromise budget plan by the end of the month.
But the Senate president warned members to be ready to take action early next month.
Republican Leader Christine Radogno, of Lemont, told the Senate on Thursday that negotiations continue over a far-reaching budget plan to end a nearly two-year deadlock.
Radogno and Democratic Senate President John Cullerton brokered a bipartisan deal that includes tax increases to drive down a multibillion-dollar deficit and restructures laws and regulations that Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner demands to boost the economy and curb politicians’ power.
The tax package includes a new “business opportunity tax” that businesses would have to pay, based on their payroll. Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, said the tax would cost businesses a minimum of $225 and a maximum of $15,000 annually, depending on the size of their payrolls.
McCarter said it’s wrong for proponents of the tax to call it a “business opportunity tax.”
“This is an opportunity for them to pick our pockets,” McCarter said. “It’s nothing more than a payroll tax. If they would spend a fraction of the time, energy and thought that they put into taxing us more — if they would spend just a fraction of that looking at how to make cuts and make the government smaller and more affordable for the people — we’d be in good shape.”
McCarter, in a tweet that he later deleted, called the tax the “Bend Over Tax” and said it should be rejected.
Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, said he hopes the Senate plan advances.
“We have a plan in the Senate, and it is my hope the governor will work with us on this,” Clayborne said in a news release.
He added: “There are places like the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House that were forced to lay off 117 social service workers due to this impasse. We have seniors who lack access to appropriate care, our after-school programs are lacking stable funding and services for the disabled remain underfunded. It is time to get to work and fix our state’s most pressing issues.”
The Senate plan also would increase the personal income tax 33 percent, from 3.75 percent to 4.99 percent. It would create a 5 percent excise tax on some services such as car repair and laundry.
But it also includes legislation to answer Rauner’s concerns. They include a two-year freeze on local property taxes, cost-cutting restrictions on payouts for workers’ compensation claims, streamlined state purchasing and an avenue for voters to eliminate unnecessary local governments.
McCarter said increased taxes on small businesses and citizens will lead to more of both leaving Illinois.
“It looks like this might end up being one of the biggest backroom deals made in the history of Illinois,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands of people left this state when we raised the income tax last time. We’re going to make one of the dumbest moves in history if we repeat this.”
Radogno had promised a floor vote by the end of January. But Cullerton told members that when the Senate returns Feb. 7 they should be “prepared to vote.”
“Then it’s going to come time to make a decision,” Cullerton said on the floor during a brief session. “The problems we face are not going to disappear; they’re going to get more difficult every day.”
Radogno and Cullerton had tried to strike quickly after the new year, but Republicans were wary. They hoped that after more work, there could be a vote this week.
However, the Senate failed to whip votes up for a complex, 13-bill package covering everything from a tax on car repair to a riverboat casino in Danville.
“It’s incredibly complicated, and the more you try to refine it, the more things crop up,” Radogno said.
Not a single vote was recorded this week on what has been called the “grand bargain” to loosen the grip of stalemate between Rauner and Democrats, who control the Legislature. The longest period a state has gone with no spending plan since World War II has led to a projected deficit of $5.3 billion, $11 billion in overdue bills and a $130 billion gap in what’s needed to cover retirees’ pensions.