Cullerton: Senate ‘wait and see’ on House budget, tax votes

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The Illinois Senate plans to play the short-term role of spectator on the state budget, leaving to the House the task of voting first on a $38 billion spending plan and a bid to make the 2011 temporary income-tax hike permanent, Senate President John Cullerton said Wednesday.

The House is expected to begin passing pieces of the Fiscal 2015 budget Thursday, but far less certain is whether that chamber has the votes to pass the income-tax extension that is needed to fund about $4 billion worth of spending in the upcoming budget year.

That either Democratic-led chamber would consider passing an out-of-balance budget on to Gov. Pat Quinn has drawn criticism and constitutional questions from Republicans but is a clear by-product of the fact the tax debate is playing out in a tight gubernatorial election between the governor and Republican Bruce Rauner.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, wouldn’t say how close he is to having the necessary 60 House votes needed to block the income tax from rolling back in January from 5 percent to 3.75 percent for individuals and from 7 percent to 5.25 percent for corporations.

Cullerton told reporters Wednesday that he believes he has amassed the necessary 30 votes in the Senate to pass the income-tax extension if it gets out of the House. But he made clear he’s making no moves on the budget until he sees how things play out in the Statehouse’s lower chamber.

Asked if he agreed with the House strategy of passing the spending components of the budget without knowing the fate of a main funding mechanism, Cullerton said, “That’s up to the House to decide, right? The House is going to vote on both of those first. So when it gets to the Senate, then we can decide what we want to do.”

Cullerton played coy when asked if he would press for Senate passage of the $38 spending piece of the budget on to Quinn if the House fails to muster enough votes to make the income-tax hike permanent.

“I can’t speculate,” he continued. “I’m not sure what circumstances you’re talking about, the House voting on the tax.”

A reporter again laid out the scenario to the Senate president of the House approving the $38 billion budget but failing to pass the income-tax component.

“Or, they don’t call it,” Cullerton interjected. “We’ll wait and see.”

Lawmakers have until May 31, their scheduled adjournment for the spring session, to iron out a budget for the state fiscal year that begins on July 1.

Quinn favors making the income-tax hike from 2011 permanent, while Rauner has said he wants to “get rid” of the 2011 income-tax increases but, of late, has appeared to leave open the possibility of eliminating it in stages.

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