SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate’s plan to end the nation’s longest state budget deadlock fizzled Monday after Republicans declared they wanted more time to ensure Gov. Bruce Rauner’s demands are met before approving a tax increase.
The Senate’s planned action would have been symbolic. Democratic President John Cullerton and Christine Radogno, the Republican leader, knew there wouldn’t be time in the Legislature’s last two scheduled work days to push the package through the House and get it to Rauner.
But Cullerton and Radogno were hoping to distinguish the Senate from what has become a nasty battle of wills between Republican Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan. Madigan, the resolute Chicago Democrat who has run the House for most of the last three decades. Rauner insists that lawmakers pass some of his reforms aimed at helping business and reducing the influence of labor unions. Madigan says Rauner’s demands have nothing to do with the budget.
“We’re two years in and we don’t have a budget,” Cullerton said. “It’s embarrassing for the state and there’s been real damage that has happened to people and we want to avoid that.”
Cullerton pledged to present the plan to the new General Assembly. Radogno said the goal is to move quickly, to get Senate approval before month’s end.
The legislation would have increased the personal income tax rate to 4.95 percent from 3.75 percent to narrow a multibillion-dollar annual deficit and $11 billion in unpaid state bills. But it would also have included a streamlining of purchasing, local government consolidation, reform of the tax code and limits to lawmakers’ terms. Those ideas could meet Rauner’s desire to make business and political climate changes to boost business and taxpayer confidence in the state.
But Republicans were just seeing the plan Monday and didn’t want to rush, Radogno said. The current Legislature ends its session Tuesday and a new one is seated Wednesday, so there would be no time to move the proposal to the House.
The state has limped along since the middle of 2015 without an annual spending plan. State government has functioned largely because of court-ordered spending on social services and periodic appropriations by lawmakers. But more than 1 million people have been cut from services such as mental health treatment, elderly care, domestic violence assistance and cancer screenings, as well as financial aid for college, and the state’s financial ratings have dropped.
With a temporary, six-month budget having expired Jan. 1, the House approved a measure providing what sponsor Rep. Greg Harris called a “lifeline” for education and social services.
The Chicago Democrat’s plan would take money coming in from income tax revenue and provide $258 million for social services and $400 million for higher education, including $191 million for the popular, income-based Monetary Award Program for college tuition.
Rauner’s office said the governor opposes that plan unless it is accompanied by other things he wants, such as a property tax freeze.