By Greg Bishop
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Republicans said the governor’s proposed budget was based on “pixie dust” and was designed to hold state spending “hostage” unless voters approve a $3 billion progressive income tax in November.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker proposed a $42 billion spending plan Wednesday. It included new programs and increased spending for education and the state’s child welfare agency, among other priorities. It calls for spending about 4.1 percent more than the current fiscal year that ends June 30 and would be the largest spending plan in state history.
Pritzker’s budget includes $1.4 billion in spending that would be held in reserve, depending on if taxpayers approve a progressive income tax with higher rates on higher earners.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said the governor’s tact was poor.
“I think the message is to [state-contracted] providers that ‘you need to get with the program,’ that ‘if you can’t get in front of the constitutional amendment, and support it, then you’re going to experience dramatic and draconian cuts,’ ” Durkin said.
He said that was not the way to budget. He also said that because the governor’s budget includes that element, it wasn’t balanced because the progressive income tax won’t go before voters until November.
“We don’t feel that we have to have a budget that is going to be conditioned upon this pixie dust that is spreading through the capitol on this constitutional amendment,” Durkin said. “It’s just not right.”
Part of the $1.4 billion to be held in “reserve” is $400 million in group health costs. State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said it has to be paid.
“The difference is the governor is saying that if the tax increase doesn’t pass, he’s not going to pay them,” Demmer said. “And that’s exactly the kind of problem that led us to having a ballooning unpaid bill backlog and he’s proposing to go right back into that playbook.”
Other money the governor plans to hold back if voters don’t approve a progressive income tax includes $150 million for K-12 education.
Voters will decide on the progressive income tax in November. The next budget begins before that, on July 1.
Durkin said he wanted the governor to deliver a different message.
“We don’t need to raise taxes,” Durkin said. “We’ve met our obligations. We’re going to have a good year. We can get this. We can negotiate and reconcile our differences. There’s no need at all to raise taxes on Illinois citizens and Illinois employers. That’s what we should have heard today.”
Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.