Cullerton, Radogno want to make sure tax hike is 'adequate'

'Adequate' tax hike part of their plan

Leaders of the Illinois Senate told the Daily Herald Friday they are readying a state budget compromise plan for a vote next week, but at the same time they acknowledge there could be tweaks to key components in the coming days.

That includes a possible change in the cap of an income tax increase, changes to a gambling expansion plan, and the possible elminiation of a tax on soda, among other components.

"We are still taking input, we want to make sure we're reconciling numbers," Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont said.

The Governor's Office of Management and Budget has said that even with the plan, the state would still have a multibillion-dollar budget deficit. On the income tax hike proposed, which currently is set to be capped at 4.95 percent, she said, "we want to make sure it's adequate."

The meeting with the paper's editorial board was part of a "road show" of sorts for Radogno and Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat.

The pair have often been eclipsed in the two-year struggle to reach a state budget by powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan and GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Madigan, House speaker for all but two years since 1983, also serves as chair of the Illinois Democratic Party, controlling numerous war chests to aid candidates in their re-election bids. Rauner serves as the de facto head of the Illinois GOP, and the wealthy venture capitalist infused the state party with tens of millions of dollars in recent months from his personal bank account.

Cullerton and Radogno say they want to move forward and get out of the budget stalemate that has shredded the state's social service safety net, forced cuts at colleges and universities and caused businesses to relocate.

"We have to move forward; the only alternative is to stay in this state of chaos, which is completely unacceptable," Radogno said.

"This (compromise) will set us on a path where we will be able to pay down our backlog of bills and have adequate revenue. ... We'll be on a sustainable path."

The plan is composed of 13 connected pieces of legislation, which, in addition to an income tax increase that many Democrats support, include some of the governor's long-standing requests for pro-business reforms. Among them are a property tax freeze and changes to workers' compensation awards, as well as a gambling expansion bill that would allow slot machines at racetracks, including Arlington Park.

"The new licenses bring in a lot of money we can use to pay down old bills. That's why it's in there," Cullerton said.

The Senate leaders' focus, Cullerton said, is on passing the bills out of their chamber, not negotiating the plan with Rauner or Madigan, a strategy that he acknowledged "hasn't worked" in the past.

"The first step is to see if we can get our own caucuses to cooperate and vote for this ... I would hope that that would then urge Speaker Madigan and (Republican) Leader (Jim) Durkin to replicate what we've done," Cullerton said. "We're trying to say now that we're tired of assessing blame. We're not sending out political messages. We're just trying to do what we were elected to do as legislators."

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  Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno discuss proposed budget solution. Bob Chwedyk/
  Senate President John Cullerton and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno discuss proposed budget solution. Bob Chwedyk/
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