CHICAGO - As Illinois lawmakers head into the final two weeks of their session, Gov. Pat Quinn plans to press his case with House Democrats for making permanent a soon-to-expire temporary income tax increase.
The House began late last week and will continue this week passing pieces of Quinn's proposed $38 billion general fund budget for fiscal 2015, although they have yet to pass legislation extending the income tax hike that will began to expire on Jan 1.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has struggled to come up with the votes needed in his caucus to pass the tax measure; Republicans will oppose it. Instead, the House began passing budget spending bills and Madigan put a hold on sending them over to the Senate for consideration. "We may want to amend those bills," he said.
Republicans slammed the move to advance budgetary spending bills without voting also on the revenue to support them.
If sufficient votes aren't mustered in the House to support the tax extension, members could then amend spending to reflect the $1.8 billion drop in income tax revenue that is expected if higher rates roll back as scheduled midway through the next fiscal year. Lawmakers also could attempt to push off a vote on the revenue side until after the fall election.
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, is waiting on House action before taking action in his chamber. Both Cullerton and Madigan have endorsed Quinn's proposal to make permanent the current tax rates.
The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn at the end of the month. Quinn was expected back at the capital to meet with lawmakers Monday. "The governor has been working with legislators throughout the session and looks forward to a good, robust dialogue," said his spokeswoman Brooke Anderson.
Quinn's administration has warned without the tax extension, deep cuts would be needed or the state's bill backlog could skyrocket. Quinn late last week sought to highlight to the dent made in the bill backlog, now at $4.17 billion, from a high of $9.9 billion in 2010.
"Even as outside factors have forced us to make difficult but financially sound choices in all areas of the state budget, Gov. Quinn has maintained the discipline of dedicating money to pay down the backlog of bills," Acting Budget Director Jerome Stermer said in a statement.
The bill backlog at the close of April was down by $1.1 billion over the previous year. The administration has projected that the state will carry $4.9 billion in bills over into the next fiscal year July 1.
Quinn has also highlighted rating agency comments that have suggested that the state's weakened credit could stabilize if income tax rates are left intact. Several rating agencies have said such a continuation of higher tax rates, along with pension reforms enacted in December, could prevent any further credit deterioration. The state is the weakest rated state at the A-minus category with two rating agencies assigning a negative outlook.