Why Madigan can't get votes for tax hike

  • Deborah Conroy

    Deborah Conroy

Posted5/23/2014 5:00 AM

Just a little more than three years after the January night when Democrats voted to raise income taxes until Jan. 1, 2015, Gov. Pat Quinn and Democratic leaders are having a hard time rounding up the supporters they'd need to make the temporary tax hike permanent.

Now, Democrats have even more members in Springfield after a big 2012 election in the suburbs. So why has House Speaker Michael Madigan said he's 26 votes short?


One of many reasons lies in the calendar.

In 2011, the vote came after the election, when more than a half-dozen Democrats who wouldn't be returning the next term agreed to raise taxes knowing they wouldn't have to face voters again. The tax increase was approved with the minimum number of votes needed.

Now, lame ducks are largely nonexistent in the Illinois House and the election is looming five months away. It's one of a number of reasons lawmakers who told voters they wouldn't extend the tax hike are hesitant to go back on that promise, even if it means cuts to state spending on schools, care for the disabled and other programs.

State Rep. Deborah Conroy, a Villa Park Democrat and House freshman, is one of those lawmakers.

"We have a large freshman class (of lawmakers), and the freshman class is very concerned about the fact that ... voters don't think that we're honest with them," Conroy said.

That stance didn't stop GOP candidate for governor Bruce Rauner from including her among several suburban Democratic lawmakers he was targeting with robocalls over income taxes.

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Conroy, who could face a competitive race in November, had already said publicly she doesn't plan to vote for a tax extension and said she questions why Quinn didn't start trying to make the case earlier that budget cuts could be devastating.

"When I came in, of course I said a promise is a promise and we need to keep it," Conroy said. "And then you get here and you realize just how bad things are. But then you also realize that this is what we told them."

"We want our voters to trust us," she said.

Not so bad?

Republicans, by the way, don't think cuts need to be harsh and say Democratic number-fudging has made the state's budget outlook for next year seem worse than it is. The GOP will oppose the tax extension, so its fate is in Democrats' hands.

Remember ...

Nothing is a sure thing. Minds can change fast, and the House could vote on a "doomsday" budget as early as today. The reality of cuts could change minds about extending the income tax hike. Or more palatable alternative proposals could be made available before lawmakers' May 31 deadline.


And the tax increase isn't set to roll back until Jan. 1, which leaves a little time for lawmakers to take action once they're safely past the Nov. 4 election, too.

Surprising number

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan met with the Daily Herald editorial board this week and said her office, which often leads child pornography investigations, didn't have anything to do with the case of former state Rep. Keith Farnham of Elgin.

She said that's all been in the federal government's hands.

But, she said, her office's work on the issue suggested more than 8,000 Illinoisans were looking at disturbing material online.

"You always sort of like to think, OK, it's a handful of really sick folks," Madigan said. "It's thousands of people."

Shoot it down?

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, a Naperville Democrat, won House approval for a plan to study whether a system designed to shoot incoming missiles out of space is worth the money.

After all, he said, the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system has failed all its tests, most recently last year. He said it provides a "false sense of security."

"Our country has wasted billions of dollars on defense systems because we have failed to cut programs that do not work," Foster said in a statement. "As a scientist, I understand the need to field-test systems."


"Senator Matt Murphy returning to the legislative softball tournament is like the Titanic returning (to) the ice burg!" That's a tweet from state Rep. Mike Tryon, a Crystal Lake Republican. Murphy suffered a serious injury to his knee running to first base last year and survived this week's game.

On the air

Ian Bayne of Aurora, who ran for Congress in the Republican primary in March, has taken a job doing talk radio for a station based in downstate Bloomington.

More tax talk

Reboot Illinois will host a taxes discussion June 5 at Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest, good timing for it to potentially be a debriefing on what happens before the May 31 budget deadline in Springfield.

The discussion panel: State Rep. Scott Drury, a Highwood Democrat; state Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican; and Carl LaMell, president of Clearbrook, a local agency that cares for people with developmental disabilities.

The organizers ask that people interested in attending RSVP at www.rebootillinois.com/join-reboot-tax-event.

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