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Illinois Finally Has A Budget Plan For The First Time In 2 Years

By aaroncynic in News on Jul 6, 2017 10:16PM

Illinois State Capitol Dome, photo by Aaron Cynic/Chicagoist

Illinois has finally approved a budget for the first time in more than two years.

After the longest deadlock over a budget in history—taking place between the legislature and Gov. Bruce Rauner—the Illinois House took the final step forward and voted to override Rauner’s veto of a plan given to him earlier this week. Calling it a “32 percent tax hike,” Rauner nixed the plan, but the Senate overrode him over the holiday.

The package of legislation, three bills that passed through the House with more than 70 votes each, contains an increase in state income taxes, bringing the flat rate back to 4.95 percent, just shy of where they were when the General Assembly allowed former Gov. Pat Quinn’s 5 percent rate to sunset to the current rate of 3.75. The budget includes a $36 billion spending plan, which is expected to generate $5 billion in revenue.

On Wednesday, Rauner called the tax increase “not just a slap in the face...but a two-by-four smacked across the forehead” to Illinois taxpayers and vowed to do everything he could to prevent a veto. Ultimately, Rauner failed to do so on Thursday.

"Today was another step in Illinois’ never-ending tragic trail of tax hikes," said Rauner in a statement posted to Facebook. "Speaker Madigan’s 32 percent permanent income tax increase will force another tax hike in the near future. His tax-and-spend plan is not balanced, does not cut enough spending or pay down enough debt, and does not help grow jobs or restore confidence in government."

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan celebrated the outcome in a statement of his own: "Today, Republicans and Democrats stood together to enact a bipartisan balanced budget and end a destructive 736-day impasse. The people in this chamber did not do what was easy today. But we did what was right for the future of our state."

Several community groups and others critical of Rauner during the deadlock praised the move, and also heaped a huge amount of the blame for the impasse on the governor.

"After more than two years of an unnecessary crisis at the hands of Bruce Rauner and his extreme political agenda, Illinois finally has a bipartisan balanced budget,” said the group Illinois Working Together. “Though it may take years for the state to recover from the Rauner Crisis, this bipartisan balanced budget is a first step to begin to repair the damage done by the governor. It keeps our schools open, provides care for our seniors, and gives our economy a measure of desperately needed stability.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel thanked Illinois lawmakers for "coming together to put the people of Illinois before party politics. "Like so many others across the state, I wish the governor had been willing to actually compromise at some point in this process because the only thing his my-way-or-the-highway approach has gotten Illinois is nearly three years of gridlock and $15 billion in unpaid bills," said Emanuel.

Gubernatorial candidate and billionaire JB Pritzker said the damage “is already done.”

“Rauner led the state to $14.7 billion in unpaid bills, interest on state debt continues to skyrocket, and local governments across the state have been forced to raise taxes to compensate for a lack of state funds,” said Priztker in a statement. “Social services agencies closed, impacting countless families across Illinois, students fled to go to college in other states, and we lost opportunities for job creation. The suffering of Illinois families can’t just be erased.”

Those looking for a more progressive agenda, in stark contrast with Rauner’s agenda, say though it’s a good first step, more change is still needed.

“The budget provides insufficient funding for critical services and asks Illinois families to foot the bill instead of demanding the wealthy pay their fair share by implementing progressive revenue solutions such as closing the carried interest loophole or a financial transaction tax,” said Amisha Patel, executive director of Grassroots Collaborative. “But it is a budget and it is progress.”

Pro-business organizations allied with the governor however, were not pleased. “Imposing a five billion dollars tax hike on Illinois families and businesses without addressing the root causes of our stagnant economic growth is a recipe for disaster and will only hasten the further loss of Illinois' middle class,” said Greg Baise, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers' Association. “Today's action by the Illinois legislature will speed up the loss of manufacturing jobs and will further decimate our economy.”

UPDATE 6:30 p.m.

More opinions have been filtering in on the passage of the plan, and depending on who one asks, it's either worth congratulating lawmakers or the worst thing ever.

Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar—also running for governor—applauded the bipartisan effort, while taking a dig at the governor:

"While Bruce Rauner’s reckless veto made clear he doesn't care about the future of our state, today’s bi-partisan veto-override proves there are legislators still willing to put Illinois’ hard-working families over reckless partisan politics.” “This episode is just another reminder that when we elect people like Bruce Rauner, who hate the institutions they seek to represent, they will try to destroy it once in office."

The Responsible Budget coalition, which represents more than 300 organizations statewide including social service agencies that have had to make significant cutbacks or closed programs due to the lack of funding from the state also applauded the General Assembly:

"By having the courage to pass a budget with $5 billion of permanent new revenue, they have saved the state from even more devastating cuts to vital services and will allow schools, social service agencies, and healthcare providers to begin to heal and plan for the future. Millions of Illinoisans will be able to live a better life in the coming year because of this vote."

The Illinois GOP however, was not impressed, saying it was both "disappointed" in the GA and "troubled" by the Republicans who crossed party lines.

“I am extremely troubled by the decision of 10 Republicans to again stand with Mike Madigan," said Party Chairman Tim Schneider. "Republicans in Illinois fought Madigan’s machine in 2014 to elect Gov. Rauner and won. In 2016 we beat Madigan again and made historic gains in the House and the Senate. After all we have accomplished together, it is astonishing that these legislators would now turn their backs on taxpayers across the state."

Among other things, the Illinois Policy Institute called override an "outrage to our democracy and our representative form of government" in a statement on its Facebook page.

“The truth is that the people of Illinois now understand as never before that Madigan and his political allies care more about the prerogatives of the Illinois political class than they do about the well-being of average families in Illinois. The people now understand that this is no longer a Republican problem or a Democratic problem. This is a problem of the people trying to regain control of a government that not only ignores their voices, but also desires to shut those voices down."

Correction: This post originally stated that Rauner had allowed the 5 percent personal income tax rate under former Gov. Pat Quinn to sunset to 3.75 percent. It has been amended to reflect that the General Assembly allowed the rate to sunset.