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Governor calls special session, says he supports $5B in tax hikes

Jacksonville Journal-Courier

Friday, June 16, 2017  |  Article  |  Greg Bishop

Budget--State (8) , Governor (44) , Taxes, income (86) Cullerton, John--State Senate, 6 , Durkin, Jim--State House, 82 , Madigan, Michael--State House, 22 , McSweeney, David--State House, 52 , Radogno, Christine--State Senate, 41
Gov. Bruce Rauner is calling lawmakers back to Springfield for a 10-day special session in an attempt to reach an agreement on a balanced budget.

The session will begin Wednesday and end June 30, the last day of the fiscal year.

“Republicans in the General Assembly have laid out a compromise budget plan that I can sign,” Rauner said in a social media video announcing the special session. “It provides a true path to property tax reduction and it reforms the way our state operates to reduce wasteful spending. It will fund our schools and human services, while spurring economic growth and job creation. It is a true compromise – and one I hope the majority in the General Assembly will accept.”

The compromise budget plan Rauner referred to was introduced at a press conference Wednesday, two weeks after the General Assembly adjourned May 31 without passing a budget. Senate Democrats passed a $37.3 billion spending plan and $5.4 billion in tax hikes with no Republican support, but Speaker Michael Madigan never called the measures to the House floor for a vote.

Republicans from both chambers participated in a news conference where they introduced their budget plan that calls for a hard spending cap of $36 billion over each of the next four years and incorporates a number of tax increases that were part of the Senate’s grand bargain, but with a few changes.

The plan approved by Senate Democrats would permanently raise the state’s income tax by 32 percent, from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent, and be retroactive to Jan. 1. Under the new GOP plan, the increase would expire after four years and would not be retroactive, going into effect July 1.

A family with annual income of $60,000 would pay the state an additional $720 a year under the GOP tax hike proposal, with their tax bills spiking from $2,250 to $2,970. The four-year expiration date would coincide with a four-year property tax freeze that also is in the GOP plan.

Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both Democrats, released separate statements after Rauner’s call for a special session, blaming the governor for the budget impasse.

“House Democrats will continue our work on the budget from Springfield, but as Gov. Rauner has met each of our attempts to date with refusal, it’s clear that the onus is on the governor to show that he is finally serious about working in good faith to end the crisis he has manufactured,” Madigan said.

Cullerton said Senate Democrats did their job by passing budget bills.

“I will remind everyone that the Illinois Senate has been in session the last six months and produced a balanced budget plan that was approved and sent to the Illinois House,” Cullerton said. “I’m not sure where Gov. Rauner was during the first half of the year, but the Senate did his work and balanced his spending plan using the numbers and tax rate he wanted. Now that he’s decided to engage, it would be helpful if he could use his influence to marshal the House Republicans to join the bipartisan collation and support his tax increase and spending plan and get a balanced budget approved in the House.”

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin returned the fire.

“With the fiscal year coming to a close and the House Democrats failure to produce a budget during session warrants the governor’s action today,” Durkin said. “We can break this impasse if the House Democrats are willing to negotiate in good faith.”

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno said she’s hopeful a budget deal can be reached.

“I am anxious to return to the Capitol to continue our work on a comprehensive budget solution,” Radogno said. “We have a very real deadline looming as we close yet another fiscal year without a budget in place. … I and my caucus believe a comprehensive solution is within reach and we ought to do everything possible to achieve it before July 1.”

State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, said he’s glad Rauner finally called the special session, but he does not support the tax increases.

“I’ve hoped that the governor would call a special session. I’ve been calling for that for the last few weeks,” McSweeney said. “But we should focus on cutting spending, not raising taxes.”

Longtime political observer Kent Redfield said next week will be more exciting than this week, but it will still be a game of political chicken.

“If you call a special session, you have to [pay] per diem and travel so we could get into a silly argument next week about whether we should be spending $40,000 a day in per diem and travel to bring people back,” Redfield said.

Rauner, who hasn’t called a special session since the budget impasse began shortly after he took office more than two years ago, suggested last year that he would investigate paying for a special session out of his own pocket. Rauner also has criticized special sessions in the past as being a waste of time.

Redfield said a special session would be pure political theater, as previous ones in the past have been, if there wasn’t a real concrete proposal on the table.

“Now you’ve got a specific proposal from the Republican side, endorsed by the governor that has a budget, it has business reforms and, they’re not introducing a separate tax bill but it essentially says ‘we will agree to some kind of revenue,’” Redfield said.

The move puts a lot of pressure on House Democrats led by Madigan, D-Chicago, he said.

“If this doesn’t pass, or if they don’t’ get a serious counter offer, then that will lend credibility to the claim that the reason they have a budget crisis is because of the Speaker,” Redfield said. “And I agree, the House Democrats are going to have to respond.”