SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois House has approved an income tax increase as part of a plan to end the nation’s longest budget standoff.
The House voted, 72-45, Sunday on a 32 percent increase in the personal income tax rate. It would go from 3.75 percent to just under 5 percent. It passed with one more vote than necessary to take effect immediately.
Democratic Rep. Larry Walsh Jr. of Joliet said the vote was a huge leap forward to putting the state on a track to financial stability, but it wasn’t easy, especially for his Republican colleagues who voted for the increase.
“It was a hard vote for each and every one of us,” Walsh said. “[But] it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do.”
Democratic Rep. Greg Harris of Chicago sponsored the measure. He said the increase is necessary to avoid financial catastrophe. Bond-rating houses have threatened to downgrade Illinois’ creditworthiness to “junk” status without action.
More than a dozen Republicans voted for the measure, including Rep. Bob Pritchard of Hinckley, who said the vote was borne of pragmatism.
“I knew we couldn’t continue the way we were,” Pritchard said. “We couldn’t continue without a budget, overspending and cutting back services to any number of services that citizens want and benefit from.”
But some argued that lawmakers need more financial restraint.
“It will kill jobs and hurt people in the state,” said Republican Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills. “Fifteen Republicans waved the white flags of surrender to [House Speaker Michael] Madigan.”
Gov. Bruce Rauner said he will veto the income-tax increase that the House has approved.
Rauner issued a statement that decried “the largest tax hike in history and continue out-of-balance budgets with no real reform.”
The first-term governor insists on business-friendly changes and a statewide property tax freeze in return for agreement on a budget. The tax increase goes back to the Senate for concurrence.
The House followed the tax bill with approval of an annual spending plan.
The vote was 81-34 for a budget that spends about $36 billion. Democrats point out that it’s about
$800 million less than what Rauner proposed last winter.
• Group Editor Eric Olson and reporter Alex Ortiz contributed to this story.