By Greg Bishop and Dan McCaleb | Illinois News Network
SPRINGFIELD – Illinoisans very well could learn Sunday whether their taxes are going up and, if so, by how much. Based on legislation passed by Senate Democrats in May and ongoing discussions through June’s special session, the tax increase is expected to total at least $5 billion and include a 32 percent income tax hike on Illinois workers.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, after being accused of stalling budget negotiations earlier in the day, issued a statement late Saturday afternoon saying that the House would vote Sunday on a tax increase package he claims is supported by Republicans.
“I am encouraged by the progress we continue to make with [Minority] Leader [Jim] Durkin and the other leaders,” Madigan, D-Chicago, said. “Building on this progress and Friday’s overwhelmingly bipartisan budget vote, the House will be voting Sunday on a revenue package that is modeled on the bill supported by the governor, and House and Senate Republicans in their recent announcement of their budget blueprint, and ensures a balanced budget for our state.”
Durkin responded by releasing his own statement, saying a deal has not been reached.
“There is no agreement on a comprehensive budget package that includes reforms and revenue,” Durkin, R-Naperville, said. “This impasse can only be resolved in a negotiated manner. It is our hope that Democrats will remain at the negotiating table.”
If approved, a 32 percent income tax hike would cost a family earning $60,000 annually an additional $720 a year, or $60 a month. The tax hike would be effective July 1, according to Madigan spokesman Steve Brown. The Senate’s initial plan made it retroactive to Jan. 1, which would have been a bigger hit to taxpayers.
The state entered its third consecutive fiscal year without an approved budget Saturday as its backlog of bills has grown to $15 billion and national credit ratings agencies have threatened to downgrade Illinois to junk status, which would mean much higher interest rates on state borrowing.
On Friday, some Republicans joined House Democrats to vote in favor of an amendment to a budget bill that seeks to spend $36.5 billion and would require the $5 billion in tax hikes.
Durkin sparred with Madigan on the House floor early Saturday afternoon after Madigan said lawmakers would return to the Capitol Sunday but didn’t expect any legislation to be called for a vote.
At a mid-afternoon news conference before Madigan released his tax vote statement, Sen. Jason Barickman and Rep. Tom Demmer said Republicans were concerned Madigan was trying to stall negotiations. Barickman said there was a sense of optimism that a compromise budget deal could be reached after meetings Friday night. But, he said, House action Saturday, including Madigan’s announcement that no bills would be called for a vote, was telling.
“Why is it that Speaker Madigan apparently is putting the brakes on this negotiation?” Barickman asked. “We’ve seen this playbook of his before. We know that when the Speaker says that there will be no votes tomorrow, it is a sign to the House Democratic caucus to stop negotiating and go home for the weekend. … We are ready to work.”
Earlier Saturday, Madigan entered the House floor after representatives took a single vote on a veto override.
“There will be a session tomorrow. We do not expect that any bills will be called tomorrow,” Madigan told the chamber. “The leaders met yesterday. They’ll meet again today. The appropriations-revenue people met late last night and early this morning. Workers compensation people met this morning and all will continue to meet through the weekend.”
Durkin, R-Western Springs, then rose and criticized Madigan for the lack of action.
“We’re two days out after our fiscal year,” a frustrated Durkin said. “We had great momentum yesterday in this chamber. Sending our members back home, or wherever, and saying that we’re not going to come back until late tomorrow, I believe, does not move us toward resolution of this issue. … I want this done today.”
Madigan responded to Durkin by asking if he told anyone to send their members home. Durkin replied that Madigan’s message was clear: nothing was getting done today or Sunday.
After Durkin spoke, many of his colleagues stood and applauded.
“What’s telling here is the number of House Democrats who stood and cheered and said they too are ready to get the job done,” Barickman said at his news conference.
It’s unclear if the accusations that Madigan was stalling for political purposed and the response to Durkin’s comments by some of his own caucus led to his tax vote statement later in the day.
Senate President John Cullerton also talked to the media after emerging from a leaders’ meeting. He also appeared frustrated at the slow progress.
“There’s still discussion about property tax issues, worker’s comp, and the budget,” Cullerton said, noting again that the Senate already has passed legislation on all these matters.
Gov. Bruce Rauner wants a property tax freeze that mirrors the length of any income tax hike. A four-year freeze proposed by Madigan includes exemptions for pensions and debt and would not apply to Chicago, Chicago Public Schools and several other at-risk school districts. Democrats also don’t seem open to a temporary income tax increase.
Rauner also said he wants meaningful pension and workers’ compensation reform. Republicans have called Democratic measures on both watered down and “fake” reforms.
“I don’t want to start a fight between the House and the Senate, but you know, I’ve said this for a long time, we’ve already voted on and passed all of these issues out of the Senate,” Cullerton said. “We’re all just waiting for stuff that would come from the House.”
Democrats held their own news conference later Saturday. Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said negotiations are wrapping up on a spending plan and tax increases. She said the two sides are closer on a property tax freeze, and there’s still work to be done on workers’ compensation reform.
In apparent response to Republicans’ accusations against Madigan, Democrats also called for unity.
“Given the progress that was made yesterday, the last thing we need today is fingerpointing,” Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said.
The verbal confrontation between Madigan and Durkin came after representatives on both sides of the aisle voted to override a Rauner amendatory veto of 9-1-1 legislation to keep the service operating throughout Illinois as well as increase telephone fees statewide. The vote to override Rauner’s veto was 90-22, with many Republicans joining Democrats.
Debate on the override was limited to two representatives per side, and both Republican speakers chosen were in favor of the override. After the vote, Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, stood and criticized the fee hikes contained in the legislation.
“In that bill, fee increases were put on the people of Illinois, both in Chicago and downstate … that had absolutely nothing to do with the cost of actually providing 911 services,” Breen said. “The actual cost of providing 911 service was $1.05 downstate. So what did we do? We put $1.50 on folks, 50 percent more than is actually required to provide the service.”
The Senate also voted to override Rauner’s veto on the 911 bill, 43-1, meaning it will become law and the fee hikes will go into effect.
Rauner criticized the action in a news release.
“Today the majority failed taxpayers by using the threat of canceling 9-1-1 services as leverage to force a tax hike on Illinois residents,” Rauner said. “We tried to stop this cynical legislation by utilizing an amendatory veto that would have ensured that emergency services continued without an unnecessary tax hike.”
Lawmakers in the are scheduled to return to the Capitol Sunday afternoon. Senators aren’t scheduled to return until Monday.