Efforts to pass income tax hike stall in House

January 10, 2011 7:09:08 AM PST
The Illinois House of Representatives got back to business Sunday voting to curtail the program that allows seniors to ride for free on mass transit. Lawmakers stalled, however, on the income tax increase issue.

The state income tax increase proposal first became public last Thursday still had not taken the form of a bill Sunday night that the Illinois General Assembly could consider. Sunday marked the passage of another 24-hour period without any public progress to report towards solving the state's fiscal crisis.

House Speaker Michael Madigan left the well Sunday night without explaining what had gone wrong. He had called his chamber back to Springfield for a rare Sunday session to consider an income tax increase, but obviously to some, the majority Democrats had not convinced enough of their own members.

"I think the clock is ticking, and I think they're scrambling to find votes," said Rep. Jim Durkin, a Republican representing Western Springs.

"I think we're looking at what's the formula people can live with," said Democratic Rep. Greg Harris of Chicago.

Last week, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton confirmed that he, Madigan and Gov. Pat Quinn had agreed to seek a 75-percent income tax increase to balance a $13 to $15 billion deficit.

Under the proposal, the corporate income tax rate in Illinois would be increased from 4.8 percent to 8.4 percent, and the personal income tax rate would increase, if the bill is passed, by 75 percent, from 3 percent to 5.25 percent.

"I want to see the government do more to help more people, but at this stage, we've got to pay our bills, and we've got to get back in the black," said Democratic Chicago Rep. Will Burns.

" I think that the proposal is a bit rich. I understand the need for revenues. I want to fill our deficit, our hole, but I want to make sure that there's no new spending, no new programs in it, " said State Rep. Karen May, a Democrat representing Highland Park. "I'm willing to vote for revenues, if there are cuts and if we have a five-year plan to get us to financial stability."

Governor Quinn --uncharacteristically silent since before New Year's Day--did not mention taxes during his remarks Sunday at a pre-inaugural event.

Meanwhile, the House did pass a measure Sunday night to restrict the Regional Transit Authority's' free rides for senior program to those under the poverty level. The largely symbolic move would have virtually no impact on the state's deficit.

"This is not about the state budget. It's about RTA, and we don't know what the actual fiscal impact will be," said Democratic Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie of Chicago.

The House will reconvene Monday at 9 a.m. Lawmakers will take a mid-day recess to attend the inauguration ceremonies. Then, they will come back to resume work, presumably, on the tax bill. There's no guarantee, however, that they will actually have a bill at that point, as negotiations continue in Springfield.