General Assembly gives itself another month to reach budget accord
The General Assembly will meet in a continuous session through June to try to put a budget in place for the new fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
Any proposal will require a three-fifths' majority rather than a simple majority to pass. That translates to 71 'yes' votes in the House, which the Illinois News Network (INN) said has led some Republican lawmakers to believe they are in a stronger bargaining position, according to INN.
“Our plan is for the House, Democrats and Republicans, to work through the month of June to continue to work on budget making, working on a balanced budget,” House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) said, according to INN.
In its recent "Springfield Highlights" report, the Illinois Manufacturers' Association (IMA) called the lack of a budget an “abject failure," saying the General Assembly has failed in its constitutional responsibility to send a balanced budget agreement to the governor for the third straight year. As a result, the state has rung up an ever-growing backlog of unpaid bills, which has now topped $14 billion, INN said.
Illinois’ credit rating has also fallen precipitously throughout its two-year budget crisis, including after the spring legislative session ended without a budget. Both Moody’s and S&P Global Ratings have downgraded Illinois to one notch above “junk” status.
"Today, we've seen a complete dereliction of duty by the majority in the General Assembly," Gov. Bruce Rauner said, according to the INN. "Once again, a tragic failure to serve the people of Illinois; a tragic failure to pass a balanced budget along with critical structural changes to protect taxpayers and grow more jobs."
During the session, Senate Democrats pushed through a partisan budget plan that included $37.3 billion in spending made possible through a $5.4 billion increase in tax revenue, according to the IMA. The plan would have raised the state income tax on individuals and corporations and expanded the state tales tax to more products and services.
In the House, Democrats held a series of closed-door meetings but could not agree on a balanced plan. Like the Senate, House Democrats considered increases to the income taxes and an expansion of the sales tax. They also discussed a 1 percent tax on health care claims and imposing a $5,000 fee on corporations that wanted to operate in Illinois.
Ultimately, the session ended without Madigan calling for a budget vote in the House. The Chicago Tribune attributed this to House Democrats' unwillingness to vote on a budget that they believed Rauner would veto.
Rauner had made it clear that he wanted a property tax freeze and would not support increased taxes. House Democrats decided it was better to not pass a budget than approve tax hikes that would not earn Rauner’s signature.
“The Governor and state legislators need to pass a state budget that will restore stability and predictability,” Tim Klasinski, IMA's chief communications officer, wrote. “However, simply throwing more tax money without reform will not solve the underlying problems that include deficit spending, out of control pension costs, and a morose economic climate that discourages job creation and capital investment in Illinois.”