With no vote on Grand Bargain, GOP state senators speak out
The state of Illinois' debt grows by $11 million a day while lawmakers try to break a nearly two-year budget impasse.
This stalemate marks the longest period of time a U.S. state has gone without an annual budget plan in almost 100 years.
One element of the challenge is the desire of both parties to approve a plan that is a viable solution for taxpayers as well as the people, state Sen. Bill Brady (R-Springfield) said during a news conference.
“This is not a done deal, and we need to finish it,” state Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) said.
However, the proposed legislation does not meet all their objectives.
The failure to hold a vote on the controversial Grand Bargain has caused frustration and confusion as to why the vote did not take place and what is to happen next.
On the other hand, state Sen. Karen McConnaughay (R-Springfield) remains optimistic.
“I indeed think we are very close,” she said. “The hold-up is there are a number of specific issues, and we are still working out the details. When you think about the amount of various issues we’re taking on in a comprehensive package, it is no wonder that it takes a while to get there.”
Response to accusations by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and other top Democrats is mixed. Some believe Gov. Bruce Rauner is working behind the scenes to disrupt the controversial Grand Bargain that could end the impasse.
“Unfortunately, I’ve been informed that the governor decided to interject himself in this process and doesn’t want this approved in this form,” Cullerton said.
However, Brady said that as the senior elected official of the state, Rauner's input is valuable and coveted.
“We continue to seek his advice, and we will continue to work with him and Cullerton,” he said.
The Senate president admitted there is not enough support for the bill in its present form. Although the Democrats control the Senate and could have forced a vote on March 1, instead Cullerton lashed out at Rauner -- raising the question of whether he has enough votes in his caucus for the measure to prevail.
Among other concerns, the primary obstacle to Republican support for the bill is a proposed increase of personal income tax rates from 3.75 to 4.95 percent, or even as high as 5.25 percent. Opponents of the plan attribute the recent exodus of 40,000 people from Illinois to the increasing tax burden and believe it would be unfair to increase taxes on the remaining businesses and residents.
According to the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI), the overall impact would mean a tax increase of about $7 billion for Illinoisans. Officials of IPI suggest a plan that does not include a tax hike. IPI Vice President Ted Dabrowski recalled a recent measure in 2011 in which personal interest taxes were raised by lawmakers with the promise of paying off Illinois debt and improving the state’s economy.
“From 2011 to 2014, Illinois collected $31 billion in new taxpayer revenue, but the tax increases have made things worse,” Dabrowski said.
Budget solutions proposed by IPI do not include new taxes to close the gap in the state’s deficit. They would reduce spending, implement much-needed reforms and provide property tax relief.
Brady concluded with what is the bottom line. He indicated there are three key elements to the framework of the solution.
“We were driving for, one, a balanced budget; two, property tax relief; and, three, for people who grow jobs in this state [to be] comfortable with this package,” he said.