Difficult Budget Battle Ahead In Springfield
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- House Speaker Michael Madigan said Friday that lawmakers will try again to draft a 2015 budget after the House overwhelmingly rejected a budget plan that would have made deep cuts to schools and social services next year in a vote one Republican critic called "all theater."
Friday's roughly $35 billion budget was developed by Democratic leaders after it became clear there wasn't enough support in the House for an earlier spending plan that relied on extending Illinois' temporary income tax increase. The new budget proposal was intended to motivate lawmakers opposed to the tax hike to rethink their position by demonstrating what some have called the "doomsday" impact of losing that revenue.
Lawmakers voted down the budget, which was widely expected to fail, by a vote of 107-5. Only Democrats voted for the plan.
Madigan said afterward that he will continue to press legislators to approve extending the tax hike. But he said they will work toward another spending plan that doesn't rely on it and that can get the 60 votes needed for House approval. The plan also will need support from the Illinois Senate.
"In short order we'll have yet another budget proposal that will provide a good level of state services without an extension of the tax increase," the Chicago Democrat said.
Both chambers adjourned for the weekend and will return Monday for the final week of the current session. Lawmakers are expected to come under considerable pressure next week to finish the budget and decide whether to extend tax increases set to expire next year.
At the same time it rejected the more conservative budget plan, the Democratic-led chamber approved legislation that would place a non-binding resolution on the November ballot asking voters if the Illinois Constitution should be amended to add a 3 percent surcharge to incomes of more than $1 million to fund schools. Madigan said the move would help the Legislature to approve the changes next year.
Rep. Fred Crespo, who sponsored Friday's budget bill, said he didn't agree with the sharp cuts in the plan but said lawmakers need to do something before the session ends May 31.
"I'm having a difficult time reconciling people who say we don't want to extend the tax hike and then vote against this budget plan," the Hoffman Estates Democrat said.
GOP Rep. Tom Cross said Democrats, who control both chambers of the Legislature, need to learn to live within their means. He dismissed Friday's action -- which played out in a matter of minutes because Madigan limited debate on the budget -- as purely political.
"Today is all theater," the Oswego lawmaker said. "There's nothing substantive going on in this chamber today."
The temporary tax increase approved by Democrats in 2011 is scheduled to drop from 5 percent to 3.75 percent for individuals in January, reducing revenue next year by $1.8 billion. The tax increase, which raised the individual rate from 3 percent, has cost the typical Illinois resident about $1,100 per year since it took effect.
Madigan, Gov. Pat Quinn and other Democratic leaders have pressed to extend the rate, and are continuing to do so. But it has been a tough sell so far in the House, where all Republicans and several Democrats up for re-election in November have said they won't vote to keep the higher rates.
Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Democrat from Park Ridge and a chief budget Senate budget negotiator, said the Legislature could look at other options for generating revenue, such as closing corporate tax "loopholes."
"This compels other areas to be put on the table because the fact is, we face a major financial cliff and challenge," Kotowski said.
Lawmakers have the option of punting on the income tax increase until the post-election lame-duck session at the end of the year, an option that's already encountered resistance from nearly 120 school superintendents from districts around Illinois.
In a letter sent to lawmakers and Quinn, the superintendents said passing a budget that does not include sufficient revenue would leave schools with "crippling uncertainty."
"I think that would leave us really exposed in an election year, presenting a budget that's out of balance," said Assistant Majority Leader Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook, a Democrat. "That would not be a great solution for us."
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