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Kerry Cardoza, MEDILL

The Illinois House voting Thursday to approve Governor Quinn's appropriations.

Illinois House passes spending bills requiring tax extension

by Aimee Keane and Kerry Cardoza
May 15, 2014

SPRINGFIELD—The Illinois House on Thursday passed a series of appropriation bills pointing toward total spending of $38 billion, as sought by Governor Pat Quinn, in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Republican representatives criticized the Democratic sponsors of the bills for pushing forward spending plans before the legislature decides whether to approve Governor Quinn’s proposed extension of the 5 percent “temporary” income tax on individuals.

Without an extension, state revenues will fall far short of the spending levels requested by the governor and passed by the House. The Senate has yet to act.

“These spending bills assume the tax increase will stay in place,” said State Rep. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove), clad in lime-green tennis shoes in preparation for a long day on the floor. The legislative session winds up on May 31, with much business still to be transacted.

Republicans repeatedly referred to what they said was Democrats’ failure to uphold their promise of keeping the budget capped at $34 billion. Quinn’s proposed spending plan totals $38 billion. As the session progressed Republicans kept a running tally of dollars approved.

The fighting was not restricted to cross-party politics. Not all House Democrats were eager to support the budget many Republicans called “unconstitutional.”

“There’s no consensus here on raising taxes,” said State Rep. Jack Franks (D-Marengo) as State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) pushed for additional funds for the Department of Children and Family Services. “We’re promising imaginary money that does not exist.” Franks declared.

Several bills inspired a lively debate on the floor, requiring the presiding offer to repeatedly ask members to quiet down.

State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) slammed a proposed $200,000 grant for a library in Elgin. “We’ve not done our due diligence,” Ives protested. She noted that Elgin has a freshman state representative, Democrat Anna Moeller, who would likely gain political favor with the grant money. “This budget is full of handouts,” Ives asserted, urging the House to vote no on it.

Quinn initiated a temporary income tax increase of 2 percentage points in early 2011, avoiding huge spending cuts, but it’s scheduled to expire at the end of this year. His fiscal 2015 budget assumes a permanent extension of the current 5 percent rate, but it remains to be seen whether the Democrat-led House and Senate will approve the extension when they finalize the budget this month.

With 41 bills to go, appropriations totaling $33 billion were passed Thursday afternoon.