Democratic lawmakers pushed dozens of fiscal 2015 appropriations bills through the Illinois House of Representatives on Thursday over protests largely from Republicans that the money does not exist to pay for higher spending.
The bills for the budget that takes effect July 1 were based on Governor Pat Quinn’s preferred spending plan that calls for making permanent higher income tax rates that were put in place in 2011 and are scheduled to partially expire on January 1. But instead of voting first on the taxes, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan decided to start with appropriations.[…]
At the beginning of Thursday’s marathon budget session, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said that the budget process was taking the wrong turn.
“We are voting today for an unconstitutional budget, plain and simple,” he said.
* Illinois Issues…
The plan approved [yesterday] was largely based on Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget proposal, which calls for an extension of the current income tax rates. The rates are scheduled to begin stepping down in the second half of next fiscal year. The plan would increase spending for K-12 and higher education, as well as human services. The spending includes several line items specifically requested by Quinn, including increased funding to the Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) for low-income college students, additional funding for maternal and early childhood health programs, money to turn two shuttered youth centers into special treatment centers for mentally ill and substance addicted adult inmates and raises for home health care workers.
Still, the plan would not fully fund General State Aid to schools. GSA has been prorated for the last three years. The legislation passed today would fund GSA at 90 percent. Some Republicans argued that if there is going to be a tax increase, more of the money should go to education. The line item for transportation would be funded at 83 percent. “We’re spending more money than at any time in history and the question is where is the money? Cause it doggone sure is not in education,” said Rep. Chad Hays, a Catlin Republican. “Where is the money? This process doesn’t add up.” Lewiston Democratic Rep. William Davis, who is chairman of the House K-12 education budgeting committee, said that K-12 education would be getting a bigger chunk of revenue than other areas of the budget. “Tell me someone in this chamber who doesn’t run on some education platform—that they support education and want to see it fully funded? I think we all agree on that. But I think the reality is that there are always some limitations. We don’t have an unlimited pot of resources that we can use.”
* Daily Herald…
On scores of votes, state Reps. Sam Yingling of Grayslake, Marty Moylan of Des Plaines, Anna Moeller of Elgin, Stephanie Kifowit of Aurora and Deborah Conroy of Villa Park voted “no.” The five could face tough Republican opponents in November.
“It’s irresponsible to vote for a budget with a fictional income source,” Yingling said in a statement.
And Moylan said he’s opposed the tax extension and therefore couldn’t vote for a budget that relies on its money.
Other Democrats who have had competitive races in the past — state Reps. Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg, Fred Crespo of Hoffman Estates, Elaine Nekritz of Northbrook and Kathleen Willis of Addison — voted “yes” on the budget.
Among those voting for most of the bills was Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, who previously said she is against extending the temporary tax hike and even co-sponsored a bill in 2013 to immediately eliminate the tax increase. The bill never came to a vote.
Scherer received substantial financial support from House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, both in her first election campaign in 2012 and again this spring in the primary election during which she successfully fended off a challenge from Gina Lathan of Springfield.
Scherer said Thursday her votes for the budget do not indicate she will vote to extend the temporary income tax increase.
“My feeling has not changed,” Scherer said. “There’s not been a single vote taken today about taxes. I know there are people trying to say this is a tax vote. This is a budget vote, which is not an annual financial report. It’s a budget vote.”
* Illinois News Network…
“I’ve been visited a lot today by people who know the extension is going to be very vital for social services, hospitals; they’ve all contacted me,” state Rep. Daniel Beiser, D-Alton. “What I’m trying to do right now is I’m trying to figure out what’s best for my district. … What if we don’t extend the tax? What’s going to be cut in my area? Because I don’t need one more job cut in my area. I don’t need anything else closed. I’m going to take all of that into consideration and I’m going to do what’s best for my district.”
His view was echoed by state Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale.
“We have two and a half weeks left in the session to look at whether or not people want to keep the … tax increase that was put into effect three years ago,” he said. “I think we could’ve done things a little bit differently. I’m a freshman down here and whatever they decide to do, I have to make the best of and make my decisions on how I would like to vote.”
In a late development Thursday filled with political intrigue, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, invoked a rare parliamentary maneuver that blocks the spending bills from being sent to the Senate, keeping them under House control. […]
The day offered no clarity on whether House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, was making any headway toward reaching the necessary 60 House votes from his 71-member caucus to keep the temporary income-tax increases from rolling back in January. At one point Thursday, the Capitol Fax political blog estimated that Madigan’s headcount stood at a mere 53.
“He hasn’t given me a number, but I think we’re a decent ways away,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said late Thursday, when asked how far his boss had to go to reach the 60-vote threshold.
That estimate was made before the votes were clear yesterday. Subscribers know more.
House Speaker Michael Madigan has filed a motion that will effectively prevent the more than 70 budget bills passed today from automatically going to the Senate. Madigan told the Chicago Tribune that the move was needed in case the House wanted to further amend the bills.
There are other possibilities: there are murmurs of meeting in the middle; instead of keeping the tax rate where it is or letting it drop to 3.75 percent, choose a number in between.
Other lawmakers say Illinois could come up with more cash by closing so-called corporate loopholes, or reducing the portion of state taxes shared with cities and towns. The problem is, neither of those ideas would match the amount of money Illinois would rake in through a higher income tax.
Which leaves Democrats scrambling to herd their members.
* The typical taxpayer is forking over about $1,100 more this year as a result of the tax hike, according to government numbers crunched by the AP…
Number of Illinois taxpayers: 5.99 million
Average taxable income: $55,000
2014 average state tax liability at 5 percent: $2,750
Average liability at 3 percent rate: $1,650
Average liability at 3.75 percent if tax is rolled back: $2,062
Average reduction with the rollback: $688
* From House GOP Leader Jim Durkin’s press release…
Leader Durkin has sent a letter requesting an Attorney General opinion regarding the constitutionality of an appropriation of public funds in a state budget, where the appropriations listed in the budget exceed the funds estimated by the General Assembly for that fiscal year.
House Democrats are expected to pass further budget bills next week and the total spending number is expected to climb and could reach a record high of $38 billion before adjournment.
* And there was also this quite harsh press release from Democratic freshman Rep. Sam Yingling…
State Representative Sam Yingling will once again assert his independence by voting against a State budget proposal promoted by Democratic leadership in the Illinois House. The series of budget proposals are based on the assumption that Illinois’ temporary income tax increase will be extended or made permanent, something Yingling staunchly opposes.
“It’s irresponsible to vote for a budget with a fictional income source,” said Yingling from Springfield, “I will fight against the income tax increase and it would be illogical, hypocritical, to vote for a budget on a premise I believe is the wrong direction for taxpayers.” […]
“I was elected to fight the status-quo, no be part of it. My area has among the highest property taxes in the County, asking people to pay more is beyond comprehension.”