SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan told lawmakers to start drafting a pared-back budget after polling of his fellow Democrats showed they had barely half the votes they need to extend the 2011 income tax hike.
"Obviously, it's a very difficult vote," Madigan said. "It's coming at a difficult time."
The powerful Chicago Democrat said just 34 House lawmakers in his party support keeping the 5 percent tax rate, which is scheduled to drop to 3.75 percent at the end of the year. The House has 71 Democrats and 47 Republicans. To make the 5 percent rate permanent, Madigan needs 60 votes, so 26 Republicans would have to join the 34 Democrats. It's not clear any Republicans would vote yes.
Suburban Democrats facing tough re-election campaigns have largely opposed an extension so far. State Reps. Deborah Conroy of Elmhurst, Marty Moylan of Des Plaines, Sam Yingling of Grayslake and Carol Sente of Vernon Hills have all so far opposed it.
"We owe it to taxpayers and employers to not only give them the relief and the certainty they have been counting on, but to help renew their trust and let them know that government means what it says," Yingling said in a statement.
Back in March, Gov. Pat Quinn had proposed a budget that assumed the income tax rate would stay where it is. He's warned of "savage cuts" if it drops.
"We all asked the governor yesterday, 'Do you have a Plan B? Because this isn't working,'" Conroy said Tuesday. "And so far he says no. So that's kind of where we're at."
A loss on taxes could be a blow to the governor, who could face both the political risk of calling for increased taxes and the governing setback of not getting the money an extension would bring.
Madigan said he is still pushing for the governor's budget and that minds could still change before lawmakers' May 31 budget deadline. He said lawmakers facing a desperate deadline could come up with alternative proposals.
In the Senate, where a tax extension is more likely to be approved, lawmakers may balk at deep budget cuts. So the argument over taxes likely isn't over.
Quinn's opponent, GOP candidate Bruce Rauner, made things more difficult for lawmakers with re-election bids by launching a round of robocalls targeting voters in those lawmakers' districts Tuesday.
"Pat Quinn thinks you don't pay enough in taxes, but I disagree," Rauner says in the calls. "There's still time to help me fight Pat Quinn's tax increase."
Meanwhile, state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, has proposed using the state's sales tax on gasoline to pay for road construction going forward.
The proposal has yet to be debated and likely would raise questions about whether the state's general checkbook has enough money in it to pull the gas sales tax out for other purposes.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.