10 months, 4 weeks ago From qctimes.com
Cullerton spokeswoman: "It's still going to feel very draconian"; Madigan interview from Sun-Times
From From qctimes.com:
Unwilling to extend the state's temporary income tax increase or make deep cuts in state programs, Illinois lawmakers are working on a budget plan that would keep spending at current levels in the next fiscal year.
Although the so-called "middle of the road" budget plan may be more palatable to election-minded lawmakers, the new approach nearly guarantees Gov. Pat Quinn will have to navigate some serious financial potholes as he runs the state and plots his re-election chances against Republican Bruce Rauner.
The proposal, for example, won't account for rising wages, higher health insurance bills and other unavoidable cost increases in the fiscal year beginning July 1, meaning even a flat budget in some state agencies could still seem like a significant cut — especially once the temporary tax hike expires at the end of the year.
"It's still going to feel very draconian," said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago. "The agencies will have their challenges."
The latest twist in the annual rite of spring budget-making came as lawmakers returned from a weekend break to try and wrap up the legislative session by Saturday's scheduled adjournment.
For months, Quinn has warned of a financial doomsday if the state's 5 percent income tax is allowed to roll back as planned to 3.75 percent on Jan. 1.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, told reporters Monday that the lack of support for extending the tax hike or for making big cuts in state services had lawmakers trying to craft a spending blueprint that relies on natural revenue growth and other accounting moves to keep state government muddling through another year.
Madigan said schools would receive flat funding under the new proposal, but neither he or Senate Democrats could specify how tax dollars would be divided up among agencies that oversee prisons, mental health facilities and other state programs.