For months, we’ve been expecting a sad repeat of the 2011 lame-duck session of the Illinois General Assembly.
That’s when then-Gov. Pat Quinn, Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and their Democratic colleagues in both the House and Senate – including many who just had been voted out of office – rammed through a whopping 67 percent income tax increase on wage earners and a job-killing 46 percent corporate tax increase on businesses. Not a single Republican voted for the hikes, and four lame-duck lawmakers who did received cushy state jobs shortly after leaving the legislature.
Because of a sunset provision built into the legislation approving the tax increases, the income and corporate taxes since have been scaled back to slightly more than 2010 levels. But with Gov. Bruce Rauner in a standoff with Madigan and Cullerton over the state budget and Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda, we’ve been hearing talk of secret meetings between Republicans and Democrats who have been trying to reach a “grand compromise” that would include another massive tax increase.
A vote last week in the Illinois House gave us reason to be hopeful. State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, filed House Resolution 1494, which opposes any effort to raise taxes in the final days of the legislative session in early January. The resolution passed on a bipartisan, 87-12, vote, with nearly 75 percent of House members going on record opposing a lame-duck tax increase.
This doesn’t guarantee Madigan and Cullerton still won’t try to push through a tax increase during the lame-duck session, but it makes it far less likely.
State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, himself a lame duck who is leaving his legislative seat in January to become McHenry County Board chairman, also was successful in securing a critical House vote last week. Franks proposed a constitutional amendment that would require a three-fifths majority to approve any tax or revenue increase during lame-duck sessions. It currently requires a simple majority. It passed the House overwhelmingly (84-17-2) and now moves to the Senate, where a three-fifths majority vote is needed to get it before voters.
Congratulations to McSweeney and Franks on successfully passing taxpayer-friendly measures in the House. Who knows what it will mean, though, once a new General Assembly is sworn in Jan. 11.
Tax increases still could be coming then.
One thing is for sure: Business as usual needs to change in Springfield if Illinois is going to overcome its significant fiscal problems. Protecting taxpayers from further tax increases is a good place to start.