Democrats continue tax hike push; GOP wants meaningful reforms first
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Senate Democrats passed a tax hike bill out of their chamber without GOP votes, but they now are pushing for Republicans to get on board in an effort to end the nearly two-year budget impasse and bailout the state’s poor finances. Republicans want assurances on reforms to grow the economy and provide property tax relief.
On Day 2 of the Illinois Legislature’s special session, state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said the Senate has passed a budget and tax hike, and she implored House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, to do something.
“The House needs to start getting engaged and actually negotiating and sending something back to us,” Steans said.
Madigan said Wednesday his caucus is engaged and working on bridging the gap with Republican leaders on how much to tax and spend, but there was no action taken during the second day of special session in the House.
While there’s a lot of focus on issues of trust between Republicans and Democrats during this entire process, state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, said there’s one way to regain trust from taxpayers who don’t want to pay more to the state.
“I think the trust lies in the property tax freeze and relief that we’re providing the people who are taxed higher in terms of property than any other state in the nation,” Brady said.
Republicans want to amend the Senate’s tax hike plan to have it take effect in July, not retroactive to January, and to make it a temporary, 4-year increase, not a permanent increase. It would still result in an annual tax increase of $720 dollars for a family making $60,000 a year.
Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, said House Republicans need to file some amendments and get cosponsors on her $5.4 billion tax hike bill so they House can vote on it and send it back to the Senate.
“If we’re really going to be working in the spirit of unity and bipartisan cooperation so that we can end this once and for all, file the amendments, sign on as cosponsors, get them back over on concurrence and this could be over in a day,” Hutchinson said.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said Republicans require reforms on matters like workers’ compensation before signing off on tax increases.
“It can’t be a lukewarm, or watered down workers’ compensation bill which the House passed, which is basically nothing but codification of case law that actually does worse for the business community than helps them,” Durkin said.
Durkin dismissed the call from some of his GOP colleagues who want a cuts-only budget, saying Illinois’ obligations are too great. During the spring session, some Republicans introduced balanced budget proposals that do not rely upon raising taxes, but those measures went nowhere in the Democrat-majority General Assembly.
The House gaveled out of special session again Thursday without addressing the budget. Before proceeding with an hours-long committee of the whole to hear about the workers’ compensation system in Illinois, they took up various resolutions naming roads or proclaiming a certain day for a certain cause.
During a Democratic resolution to support Planned Parenthood, Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, got frustrated.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are 700 days without a budget,” Breen said. “What the hell are we voting for these damn resolutions? Why are we not doing the budget?”
House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, complained about political attack ads on her members and urged Durkin to tell the governor to lay down his arms.
Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Hinckley, said it’s time to stop the rhetoric, call a truce, and start dealing with the budget bills the Republicans put forward.
“The silence is deafening,” Pritchard said. “Let’s bring them forward. Let’s debate them here. Let’s stop making accusations. This is only prolonging the agony.”