NO BUDGET on the horizon for Illinois

By John O’Connor 
AP Political Writer

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois lawmakers braced Wednesday for the likelihood that they’ll miss a key midnight deadline for a deal to end the longest state budget drought in modern American history, triggering a rule requiring even more votes to approve one later.

Although floor action continued, the House adopted a resolution indicating that when it adjourned Wednesday, lawmakers should be ready to return to action at the call of their Democratic leaders. An adjournment resolution would typically name the specific date on which legislators are scheduled to return to the Capitol.

The state has gone more than two years without a budget in place. If the House and Senate don’t approve one by a simple majority before midnight, it would take a three-fifths supermajority.

No one had officially thrown in the towel. Senate-approved legislation for a $37.3 billion budget fueled by a $5.4 billion tax increase was on the House floor, ready for votes. Both House and Senate scurried through votes on legislation, but none that directly addressed the budget.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly have been unable to agree on an annual budget since Rauner took office in 2015. It’s the longest any state has gone without an economic outline since the Great Depression.

Rauner has blamed Democrats for failing to address the pro-business, anti-union and anti-politician “structural changes” he seeks, such as cost-cutting restrictions on workers’ compensation. Legislative Republicans have insisted a 32 percent increase in the personal income tax rate, from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent, be a part of taxpayer parity with the adoption of a local property tax freeze. Both chambers have approved workers’ comp changes and the Senate adopted a two-year freeze on property taxes. But Rauner says neither goes far enough.

On other issues, the Senate unanimously approved a measure making it more difficult for authorities to seize property from owners in connection with a suspected crime. Sen. Don Harmon’s legislation would put the burden of proof on police when confiscating property such as a car. Current law allows police to take property without charging an owner for illegal activity. The plan by Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, would force authorities to prove an owner consented to his or her property being used for a crime.

In the House, a revamped tax credit designed to reward corporations for creating jobs won endorsement. Rep. Michael Zalewski, a Riverside Democrat, said his changes would tighten up the EDGE tax incentive program. But there’s no time for the Senate to act on the measure.

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