Metro-East News

House to vote again Thursday on tax hike; Meier berated on social media

State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville
State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville dholtmann@bnd.com

They’ve called him a traitor, a liar, and a Democrat.

Since voting Sunday to increase Illinois’ personal income tax rate by 32 percent, state Rep. Charlie Meier has been lambasted on social media.

“I have not had any threats yet, so I’m thankful for that,” Meier said Wednesday.

The Okawville Republican, in a Facebook post, said he “made the best decision possible in order to keep the state of Illinois viable for our residents.”

He explained that he was “left with two bad choices and only two bad choices. I had to pick the least bad of the two choices. I chose to save the state first and continue to fight for reforms.”

The explanation by Meier didn’t sit well with some of his constituents. Commenters on his Facebook post called him everything from a traitor to a liar, and suggested he switch to being a Democrat.

One commenter wrote: “This is just another ‘kick the can’ exercise. I ain’t buying the statement that this was such a difficult decision. Is anybody else taking a ‘haircut’ on this besides the taxpayer?”

Another wrote: “I cannot begin to tell you how disappointed I am. You are taking food from my kid’s mouth and giving it to the Chicago Democratic Machine. Shame on you.”

And yet another wrote: “Madigan is playing chess and you’re playing checkers. You caved. If people wanted a tax-and-spend Democrat they would’ve voted for one. Oh, I guess they did.”

One commenter complained about a paycheck that gets “smaller and smaller with each of your decisions,” and suggested that Meier “find your money somewhere else.”

There have been other commenters, however, who praised Meier for explaining his vote. Meier was one of 15 Republicans in the House who voted in favor of the tax increase.

“I’ve had some people tell me they’ll be working to beat me in the primary, and I’ve had some come up and give me a hug,” Meier said.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has vetoed the tax bill. The House is expected to vote Thursday on whether to override his veto. It’s expected to be a close vote.

Meier said he’s not sure how he’ll vote.

“I’m doing a lot of soul-searching,” he said.

Under the proposed tax increase, personal income tax rates would go from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent. Corporations would pay 7 percent instead of 5.25 percent.

Meier, when he first ran in a Republican primary in 2012, received more than $42,000 in campaign donations from teacher unions.

After his vote for the tax increase, two education groups — the Illinois Association of Schools Boards and the Illinois Association of School Administrators — issued a joint statement, praising him.

The groups’ statement said the tax “will allow school districts across the state of Illinois to open on time this fall and remain operational for the 2017-2018 school year. The members of our organizations are proud to stand behind those legislators who stepped up and made the politically tough vote to save not only public education, but also higher education, social services and the other services necessary for our state to survive.”

Meier said teacher unions did not sway his vote.

“The teacher unions have not lobbied me on this. I’ve had teachers against this, and I’ve had teachers in favor of it,” he said.

The Illinois House, briefly in session Wednesday, adjourned and scheduled a Thursday session which could feature votes to override Rauner’s veto.

The fate of the nation’s longest-running state budget impasse since at least the Great Depression rests with the House, which lacked a quorum for action Wednesday.

Rauner on Tuesday vetoed a package of legislation that raised the income tax by $5 billion to finance a $36 billion spending plan, which would be Illinois’ first budget since 2015.

The Senate swiftly voted to override the vetoes Wednesday and sent them to the House.

Only 59 of the House’s 118 members answered the roll call Wednesday. Deputy Democratic Leader Arthur Turner of Chicago was in the chair. He adjourned the House until 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie is the Democrat deputy majority leader in the House. He said Democrats will attempt to reverse Rauner’s veto of the $36 billion spending plan financed with a $5 billion income-tax increase when enough members show up to vote.

Lang said he can’t answer for all the absences, but he mentioned three cases in which lawmakers are dealing with the death of a family member or friend, and other personal problems.

Lang said “legislators are people too.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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