Gov. Bruce Rauner (left) and Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Republicans say they have Rauner-backed ‘compromise’ budget plan

SHARE Republicans say they have Rauner-backed ‘compromise’ budget plan
SHARE Republicans say they have Rauner-backed ‘compromise’ budget plan

Key Illinois House and Senate Republicans — with the approval of Gov. Bruce Rauner — on Wednesday said they’re filing a “compromise” budget plan, which offers the path to support from Republicans on a politically unpopular income tax hike.

The GOP plan offers so-called “compromise” on seven measures, including a four-year property tax freeze paired with a four-year income tax hike, which is what Rauner has sought for weeks as a budget deadline creeps forward to June 30 ahead of the new fiscal year.

The revenue measure the Senate Democrats approved included hiking the personal income tax from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent. It included a permanent tax hike that would have started retroactively on Jan. 1. The Republican plan would start the hike on July 1 — but doesn’t account for the revenue lost between that period.

But Republicans say the “compromise” is there because they were initially seeking a permanent property tax freeze and are now asking for four years. Senate Democrats — who already passed a two-year freeze — have said they’re concerned over how poor school districts will fare with a four-year plan.

The state has been without a budget since July 1, 2015 as Rauner and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan continue to spar over the governor’s preferred reforms and insistence they be attached to a budget plan.

An appropriations measure was filed on Wednesday afternoon and five other bills will be filed on Thursday, according to State Sen. Bill Brady’s office. Numbers released by Brady’s office show the Republican plan shows higher revenue totals for sales taxes — about $75 million more — and less money coming from the personal income tax hike — about $230 million less.

Republicans offered a snapshot of the plan at a Loop press conference, which they say represents a balanced budget and reforms that address the priorities of both parties.

Reform measures will be filed in the House, while the plan’s education and budget plans are to be filed in the Senate. They say they’re offering “compromises” on a budget with spending caps; property tax relief; workers’ compensation; government consolidation; education reform and term limits.

In essence, Republicans are seeking more changes to the package Senate Democrats already passed — which included parts of Brady’s Republican and Rauner-backed budget plan.

Most importantly, Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said Rauner would sign the new plan if passed. And he noted Republican votes are essential to passing a budget plan.

Beginning on June 1, a three-fifths majority is required to pass bills rather than a simple majority. That means any budget plan will now need 71 votes to pass and require Republican support.

“If he’s committed to breaking the budget impasse he needs to work with us, and work with me,” Durkin said of the speaker. “If he doesn’t talk to us nor work with us, to me it is just a reflection on his desire to do nothing and to make sure that the governor is the one who will be hurt next year in the gubernatorial campaign.”

Legislators left Springfield on June 1 without taking up budget bills in the House. Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the package would be reviewed when filed, but noted that House Democrats had passed measures on similar “topics.” He also criticized the governor for moving the goal posts.

“Well, you know the governor has been known to take different positions at different hours of the day and night and different days of the week,” Brown said. “So, I guess we’ll have to see how they validate that.”

John Patterson, spokesman for Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, said there’s hope the Republican plan “is a serious, real step toward” compromise. He said the Senate president will wait for the bills to be filed to review the details and see how to proceed.

A special session hasn’t been called yet, but is anticipated ahead of July 1.

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