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House begins budget votes, GOP calls Dem plan 'unconstitutional'

SPRINGFIELD-The Illinois House began Thursday began passing a series of spending bills for the upcoming fiscal year, but Republicans assailed the Democratic budget package as “unconstitutional” because it’s based on the uncertain premise of making the 2011 temporary income-tax permanent.

“We are voting today for an unconstitutional budget, plain and simple,” House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, told the House chamber as it prepared to vote on dozens of appropriations bills.

The first piece of the budget pie was the state’s $6.7 billion education budget, which served up a nearly $300 million increase in spending over this year and passed the House on a 61-55 roll call.

The legislation’s sponsor, Rep. William “Will” Davis, D-Homewood, was peppered by questions from Republicans and a lone Democrat, Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, about the logic of proceeding on spending without having a clear-cut way to pay for it.

“We’ll have 70 spending bills here, and we don’t even know what the revenue is. Don’t we have it backwards?” asked Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove.

“No, I don’t think so,” Davis answered. “We have a responsiblty to move forward with what we’d like to see spent in the state of Illinois.”

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, acknowledged to reporters Wednesday that he had not yet assembled the 60 necessary House votes to permanently extend the 2011 temporary income-tax hike. Without blocking that tax hike from sunsetting in January, the state will face an estimated $4 billion budget shortfall in the fiscal year that begins on July 1.

Stay tuned throughout the day for updates from the Statehouse.