Illi­nois tax-rise veto takes blow

Se­nate OKs over­ride, ad­vances first bud­get for state since 2015

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - JOHN O’CON­NOR

SPRING­FIELD, Ill. — The Illi­nois Se­nate voted to over­ride Gov. Bruce Rauner’s ve­toes of a $36 bil­lion bud­get pack­age Tues­day, in­clud­ing a $5 bil­lion tax in­crease de­signed to start dig­ging out of the na­tion’s long­est bud­get cri­sis since at least the Great De­pres­sion.

The Demo­cratic-con­trolled cham­ber com­pleted its work within 30 min­utes of the Repub­li­can gov­er­nor’s ve­toes, send­ing the pack­age back to the House for an over­ride vote that would give Illi­nois its first an­nual bud­get since 2015.

The House did not plan to take up the ac­tion Tues­day.

“The pack­age of leg­is­la­tion fails to ad­dress Illi­nois’ fis­cal and eco­nomic cri­sis — and in fact, makes it worse in the long run,” the first-term gov­er­nor wrote af­ter his veto of the tax-in­crease bill. “It does not bal­ance the bud­get. It does not make nearly suf­fi­cient spend­ing re­duc­tions.”

Rauner acted about three hours af­ter the Se­nate voted to raise the per­sonal in­come tax rate by 32 per­cent, from 3.75 per­cent to just un­der 5 per­cent. Cor­po­ra­tions would pay 7 per­cent in­stead of just over 5 per­cent.

“We are at a mo­ment in time. We are faced to­day with the fierce ur­gency of ‘now,’” said the tax in­crease leg­is­la­tion’s spon­sor, Sen. Toi Hutchin­son, a Demo­crat. “We don’t have any more time. And too late is not good enough.”

The House OK’d the tax in­crease with 72 votes on Sun­day, one more than nec­es­sary, with the help of 15 Repub­li­cans. Whether they’ll con­tinue to defy Rauner re­mains to be seen. House Speaker Michael Madi­gan told WICS-TV that there would be no House ac­tion Tues­day.

Rauner promised to veto the tax mea­sure be­cause Democrats who con­trol the Gen­eral Assem­bly have not agreed to re­solve his pet is­sues, in­clud­ing statewide prop­erty tax re­lief, cost re­duc­tions in work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion and ben­e­fits for state-em­ployee pen­sions, and an eas­ier process for dis­solv­ing or elim­i­nat­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ments.

“It’s re­gret­table that I stand here to­day not ca­pa­ble of be­ing able to sup­port this pack­age, not be­cause what’s in the pack­age is bad, but be­cause it’s in­com­plete,” said the Se­nate’s new mi­nor­ity leader, Bill Brady of Bloom­ing­ton. “We need a comprehensive bud­get pack­age with re­forms.”

If Rauner doesn’t like the tax plan, the fi­nan­cial world does. On Mon­day, two of the na­tion’s top credit-rat­ings agen­cies sig­naled it would be a good idea for Rauner to ac­cept the re­sults. Fitch Rat­ings and S&P Global Rat­ings, hav­ing ear­lier threat­ened to move Illi­nois’ cred­it­wor­thi­ness into “junk” sta­tus with­out swift ac­tion to ap­prove a bud­get, smiled fa­vor­ably on the fi­nan­cial out­look.

Democrats and Repub­li­cans have ne­go­ti­ated the is­sues that Rauner con­sid­ers out­stand­ing in the two weeks since the spe­cial ses­sion be­gan. But the GOP claims talks broke down over the week­end in ad­vance of Madi­gan call­ing the bud­get votes. Madi­gan said Mon­day that those talks were on­go­ing.

“We’ll con­tinue to work with the Repub­li­cans on those is­sues un­til they’re re­solved,” Madi­gan said.


Illi­nois House Speaker Michael Madi­gan (left) and Se­nate Pres­i­dent John Culler­ton con­fer Tues­day on the Se­nate floor at the state Capi­tol in Spring­field.

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