After quiet week, budget talks perk up in state House

By Greg Bishop 
Illinois News Network

Most of the action on attempts at breaking the nearly two-year-long budget impasse at the state Capitol seems to be happening in the Senate. But what about in the House?

There’s 13 calendar days left in the month, but only 11 legislative days remaining. The deadline to pass a budget and reforms with simple majorities is May 31.

And while much of the focus on budget negotiations has been on the Senate’s grand bargain, little has come from the House.

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said negotiations continue on a balanced budget, workers compensation reforms, and a property tax freeze. Cullerton said he doesn’t expect any action Friday.

State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, said there’s time to get stuff done in the House.

“There’s a number of issues where we continue to try to build a bridge to those who want to see economic and structural reform in Illinois and budget making,” Zalewski said.

Zalewski noted continuing talks about the sale of the Thompson Center in Chicago, procurement reform and changes to the school funding formula.

State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, said it’s time to pass a budget without tax increases.

“We’re supposed to have $32.3 billion of revenue. My view is that we should give that as a lump sum to the governor and let him manage it,” McSweeney said.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has pushed for the Unbalanced Budget Response Act, which would give him the authority to make cuts the legislature is unwilling to make. Thus far, that proposal has gone nowhere.

“Any other solution is going to involve a massive tax increase,” McSweeney said. “Senate Republicans have been at the table negotiating the largest tax increase in the history of state of Illinois that would kill jobs and drive people out of this state.”

Some of the proposed tax hikes include increasing the individual income tax to 4.95 percent from 3.75, and a slew of service taxes.

Zalewski says a lump sum budget isn’t out of the question but could be messy.

“Does that mean that will ultimately be the outcome? No one knows,” Zalewski said. “I think our focus right now is on an appropriations bill that funds state services in a real way.”

Both chambers are in session Friday, off for the weekend and back next week.

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