Metro-East News

State House Democrats to skip budget vote, miss deadline

SPRINGFIELD -- The speaker of the Illinois House acknowledged Wednesday that lawmakers will miss a key midnight deadline for a deal to end the longest state budget drought in modern American history, triggering a rule requiring even more votes to approve one later.

Michael Madigan announced there would be no floor vote Wednesday in the Democratic-controlled House on budget measures previously approved by the full Senate and advanced Tuesday night by a House committee. He expressed confidence a compromise could still be reached before the next fiscal year begins July 1, but after Wednesday a three-fifths supermajority rather than simple majority is required for passage.

The proposal, sprung from months of bipartisan Senate negotiation, called for a $37.3 billion budget fueled by $5.4 billion in tax increases. But Madigan, a Chicago Democrat, blamed Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for talks eventually breaking down.

"Some of our people are concerned, having observed how the governor worked with the Senate Democrats, where he would negotiate, then back away, negotiate, back away," Madigan said. "There's a concern. They just don't have a high level of confidence in the way the governor has conducted himself."

Rauner said lawmakers' inability to create a budget plan he'll accept for the third straight year is a "dereliction of duty."

Rauner and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly have been unable to agree on an annual budget since Rauner took office in 2015. It's the longest any state has gone without an economic outline since the Great Depression.

Rauner has blamed Democrats for failing to address the pro-business, anti-union and anti-politician "structural changes" he seeks, such as cost-cutting restrictions on workers' compensation. Legislative Republicans have insisted a 32 percent increase in the personal income tax rate, from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent, be a part of taxpayer parity with the adoption of a local property tax freeze. Both chambers have approved workers' comp changes and the Senate adopted a two-year freeze on property taxes. But Rauner says neither goes far enough.

On other issues, the Senate unanimously appproved a measure making it more difficult for authorities to seize property from owners in connection with a suspected crime. Sen. Don Harmon's legislation would put the burden of proof on police when confiscating property such as a car. Current law allows police to take property without charging an owner for illegal activity. The plan by Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, would force authorities to prove an owner consented to his or her property being used for a crime.

In the House, a revamped tax credit designed to reward corporations for creating jobs won endorsement. Rep. Michael Zalewski, a Riverside Democrat, said his changes would tighten up the EDGE tax incentive program. But there's no time for the Senate to act on the measure.

State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, released the following statement Wednesday evening:

“Today is the 700th day of Governor Rauner’s budget crisis. It is absolutely ridiculous that for 700 days, families, seniors, schools and taxpayers in our community have suffered. Our schools are underfunded and scrambling to keep their doors open, seniors have been denied Meals on Wheels, and critical service providers are unable to provide services to victims of domestic abuse. Our prized state universities are struggling to attract the nation’s brightest students.

“We made progress in good faith to compromise with the governor on his non-budgetary demands while protecting middle-class families. I supported workers’ compensation reforms to bring down the cost of doing business in Illinois. I supported not only a property tax freeze, but went further and supported a measure to actually reduce property taxes. I joined my House colleagues to pass economic reforms to crack down on corporations that take state tax breaks only to move jobs overseas. We have made every effort to meet the governor halfway, but he needs come back to the negotiating table to work out a budget solution.

“I have been ready and willing to work on a compromise to end this impasse and pass a balanced budget, and I will continue to work throughout the summer to close the Rauner budget deficit. In the meantime, I’m upholding my personal commitment to the people I represent to not accept my own pay until a budget is in place. I urge the governor to come to the table, negotiate a budget with us and end his outrageous budget impasse.”