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updated: 5/13/2014 7:46 PM

Democrats advance budget with extension of tax increase

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Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD -- Democratic lawmakers are moving forward with a 2015 budget that is based upon an extension of Illinois' temporary income tax increase.

The plan follows weeks of hearings where chiefs from state agencies overseen by Gov. Pat Quinn's office -- painted doomsday scenarios about what would happen if their budgets were cut because the tax increases scheduled to end next January were allowed to expire, with an estimated revenue loss of $1.6 billion.

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While details of the budget plan were still being finalized, state Rep. Greg Harris, chair of the House Human Services committee, says the plan closely mirrors the $38 billion budget Quinn outlined in March which would keep current tax rates in place. Quinn says letting the tax increase expire would prompt "savage cuts" in education and social programs.

Unless the legislature acts to continue the tax increase, the Illinois personal income tax rate will decline to 3.75 percent from 5 percent on Jan. 1, 2015.

"After many hearings, we determined it was important to maintain services for families and communities," Harris, a Chicago Democrat, said.

Republicans, who have made cutting government spending a cornerstone of their re-election campaigns, were already decrying the move by the majority Democrats on Tuesday afternoon, as various budget bills were being presented in the House.

"I think that a vote for this budget is effectively a vote for the tax increase," state Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican said.

The move to approve the budget one of political expediency for Democratic leaders in the statehouse, as passing a budget before endorsing a tax increase could serve to force the hand of several vulnerable lawmakers who are on the fence about voting for a permanent tax rise.

Senate President John Cullerton has said he has the 30 required votes for the measure's passage in his chamber, but its fate in the House is far more uncertain.

House Speaker Michael Madigan's spokesman Steve Brown said Tuesday that the speaker continued to work with members in the effort to get 60 votes of support for the proposal in his chamber.

House lawmakers are expected to hear testimony on various components the budget during committee hearings Wednesday. A vote could be held in the chamber as early as Thursday. A Senate vote is expected to follow the House.

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