SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois House is set to vote on a $5 billion income tax increase Sunday to help end a two-year budget standoff although the version presented by majority Democrats was new and Republicans accused them of a bait and switch.
House Republican Leader Jim Durkin exited a private GOP caucus meeting and complained that his members had not had time to review an amended version of a spending outline. He said he couldn't ask his members to vote for a $5 billion tax increase without knowing how it would be spent.
"To take a tax increase vote before you knowing exactly what you're spending it on is irresponsible," said Durkin who lives in the Chicago suburb of Western Springs. "The way you usually work these is you vote on a plan for spending and then you find the money to match the spending."
Sunday was the second day of the fiscal year. It marks the start of the third year in a row without a state budget — the longest fiscal drought of any state since the Great Depression. The standoff has left a $6.2 billion annual deficit and $14.7 billion in overdue bills.
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats who control the General Assembly have locked horns since Rauner took office in 2015. The governor won't agree to a budget until he gets "structural" business- and political changes he says will boost commerce, as well as a statewide property tax freeze to help homeowners.
The mood was markedly different from Friday, when Democrats and Republicans alike overwhelmingly voted for a $36.5 billion spending plan. It was a preliminary test, but both sides assumed talks would continue and a final vote on spending would follow Saturday and then a vote on taxes increases.
Chicago Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan announced negotiations would be the focus of the weekend session, not votes, but he reversed himself after a raucous demonstration from Republicans who called on him to capitalize on Friday's momentum.
On Sunday, Republicans accused Madigan of slowing the process down, and of switching to a new spending plan which appears to total slightly less than the $36.5 billion presented Friday with additional money for the prison system and less for higher education, among other changes.
Rep. Michael Zalewski, a Democrat from the Chicago suburb of Riverside, said that's inaccurate. Since the legislative session began in January, and particularly in the 12-day special session which continues, Zalewski said, "There's been a clear directive to work with these guys."
"It's consistently been a miscalculation by some that the 'cookie' we get is a vote for an income tax increase" Zalewski said. "It's not a political boon to your career, but it's the right thing to do. And we need to get it done."
The bills are SB6 and SB9 .