Lawmakers OK rushed, balanced state budget; capital plan with tax increases awaits votes

SPRINGFIELD - In a historic and busy day at the state Capitol, lawmakers released a $40.6 billion general revenue fund budget and a $45 billion capital spending plan Friday just 12 hours before the General Assembly's scheduled adjournment.

The Illinois House approved a balanced, $40 billion state operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 on a bipartisan vote before adjourning Friday night, pushing further action on a host of other issues to an impromptu Saturday morning session

Funding for infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges would rely on an increase to the state's motor fuel tax and several other license and registration fee increases, and Cook County could add even more to the motor fuel tax.

The House approved the budget, after a day of negotiating between Democrats and minority Republicans, before adjourning for the night, The Associated Press reported.

The legislative leaders of each chamber had several meetings with Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker throughout the day as House Republicans withheld their votes while seeking concessions from Democrats.

While House Speaker Michael Madigan announced the House session would extend through Sunday, Senate President John Cullerton reportedly had no plans to extend the Senate's stay at the Capitol.

To take effect at the legislature's target dates, several key pieces of legislation would require three-fifths majorities, as opposed to simple majorities, if they were not passed by midnight Friday. But Democrats hold supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.

State budget

Minority Leader Jim Durkin, a Western Springs Republican, called the budget "a start" to progress in Illinois that is "fair" to taxpayers and businesses.

"Because we worked together and we made some concessions, both sides tonight, we're able to say that we have a balanced budget for this FY 20 year," he said.

Durkin said several business-centric measures requested by Republicans are expected to be approved Saturday.

Business-backed measures released with Demmer's afternoon statement include tax incentives aimed at enticing data centers to locate in Illinois; eliminating reporting of the retailer's discount in the comptroller's tax expenditure report; eliminating the franchise tax; reinstating the manufacturers purchase credit; and a "Blue Collar Jobs Act to help attract large-scale projects."

Republican Rep. David McSweeney, however, said he was not happy with the limited debate or the contents of the budget bill, calling Durkin a "failed leader" that is "in bed with the Democrats."

"Republicans and Democrats got together in a closed room and put together a budget that is at least $1 billion over what the governor himself requested," he said. "There's no provision for controlling spending. There's no pension reform. There's no Medicaid reform. There's actually no reduction in spending."

McSweeney, of Barrington Hills, said few if any lawmakers had time to read the 1,581 pages in the appropriations bill, which was released at noon, less than 10 hours before it was passed.

The General Revenue Fund spending in the fiscal year 2020 budget is estimated at $39.9 billion. An added $600 million in supplemental spending for fiscal year 2019, most of which will go to paying back pay for step increases to state employee salaries that former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner withheld, would bring the total to about $40.6 billion. The budget includes $375 million in added state funding for K-12 education, $25 million more than is mandated by the state's evidence-based funding formula. It also increases mandated categorical funding for K-12 education by $47.3 million, bringing expenditures in that area to $928.8 million.

Funding for early childhood education would increase by $50 million, up to $543.7 million.

Higher education will see an increase by $134 million over fiscal year 2019 levels, increasing to $1.94 billion. The increase would include $50 million more than last year for Monetary Award Grant funding and 5% increases to state university and college operations.

The Department of Human Services, the Department on Aging, and the Department of Children and Family Services would all see rate increases to cover the state's increase to the minimum wage. Overall, human service departments would see an increase of $567 million from last year's budget. General revenue funding for DCFS would increase by $89 million from fiscal year 2019, bringing the total up to $845 million. The agency is reeling from criticism over its inability to save three children in its care who have died this year.

Infrastructure spending

An ambitious infrastructure spending package would fund billions of dollars of backlogged road and bridge projects as well as vertical projects at schools, state higher education facilities and other state-owned buildings.

It has been more than 10 years since the state last had a capital plan, leading to crumbling roads, bridges and other state infrastructure.

More than 2,300 bridges are deemed structurally deficient, and the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Illinois transportation infrastructure a D grade.

The plan released Friday included $45 billion in spending, with $10.7 billion going to pay-as-you-go projects, $20.6 billion for bonded capital projects, $10 billion in federal funding and $2.6 billion to local governments for infrastructure projects.

That bill would allocate $33.2 billion for transportation projects including roads and bridges, $3.5 billion for education infrastructure projects, $4.3 billion for state facilities, $1.2 billion for environmental conservation projects, $420 million for broadband expansion and $465 million for health care and human services facilities.

The infrastructure spending is encompassed in House Bill 62, and it is made possible by increased transportation-related taxes and fees, a massive gambling expansion and other measures.

Raising taxes

An increase to the state's per-gallon gas tax to 38 cents from 19 cents indexed each year at the consumer price index would generate $1.2 billion for fiscal year 2020. An additional 5-cent increase on diesel fuel would generate $78 million.

Cook County municipalities would be allowed to add a 3-cent tax on top of the state-issued motor fuel tax.

A $50 increase to vehicle registration fees, bumping them up to $151 for most vehicles, would generate $475 million. Electric vehicle registrations would cost $251, with the standard vehicle fee plus $100 replacing what would have been generated by gas usage. That would create an estimated $4 million in revenue.

An increase to title registration fees would generate $146 million in revenue, and $50 million in revenue would result from a $100 increase to truck registrations.

The bill also shifts 1% of revenues generated from a separate sales tax on motor fuel to the road fund.

The measure is House Bill 3096, and any funds raised from the motor fuel tax and licensing fees would be required to be spent on road and bridge safety due to a "lock box" amendment passed by voters in 2016.

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