Democrats could craft two budget choices
Illinois House Democrats plan to make a state budget that assumes the 2011 income tax is made permanent as lawmakers face a deadline to craft a spending plan at the end of May.
Initially, budget committees had been working toward making a budget that assumed the state's tax rates will drop as law requires at the end of the year.
State Rep. Fred Crespo, a Hoffman Estates Democrat and chairman of a budget committee, says lawmakers will finish that plan but also want to be ready in case an extension of the tax increase is approved. The current 5 percent income tax rate is set to drop to 3.75 percent unless lawmakers vote to extend it.
"We're working under the premise that the tax increase is going to sunset," Crespo said.
"We'll be prepared to go either way," Crespo added.
Republicans have opposed keeping the 5 percent tax rate and would likely oppose a budget based on it. They argue the state's economic woes can be soothed by lowering taxes, encouraging businesses to hire people as Illinois lags behind the national unemployment rate.
"What part of temporary don't you understand?" state Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican, said.
The tax increase war is set to be the main event at the Capitol for the next month with nearly daily battles over the effects of keeping it or not.
On Wednesday, Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Rita Garman appeared before Crespo's committee and said big budget cuts would mean local authorities wouldn't be able to monitor thousands of people on probation.
"They would be on probation in name only," Garman said.
And Gov. Pat Quinn spoke at a rally to support his plan to double how much the state pays for low-income students to go to college, a program he says will be cut in half if the tax rate is allowed to drop.
"There will be at least $50 million or more lost to a program that we just heard is absolutely essential if we're going to have more students go to college," he said.
Some Republicans argue Democrats are manufacturing those doomsday scenarios using faulty numbers and a budget without a tax hike extension wouldn't have to include cuts as severe as proposed.