One veteran Illinois lawmaker called this week’s state budget approval “historic.”
Another state representative said the atmosphere in the state capitol was like “a pressure cooker” on Thursday, when the Illinois House overturned Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of the budget and the income tax hike that makes it possible.
It was clear that members of the General Assembly from the Homewood-Flossmoor area had never before experienced an outcome like this week’s end of the legislative session.
Rep. Will Davis, D-Homewood, and Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, and Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, all voted in favor of the $36 billion budget. The three also voted to override Rauner’s veto, which brought the two-year budget impasse to a close.
The Statehouse votes required Republican legislators to break with Rauner, both on the budget and veto override.
Davis and DeLuca both called the votes an example of bipartisan cooperation in Springfield.
The spending plan is funded through an increase in the corporate tax rate from 5.25 to 7 percent, expected to raise $460 million, and the personal income tax from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent, expected to raise $4.3 billion.
The Illinois legislature last approved temporary corporate and income tax increases during the Gov. Pat Quinn administration. The personal income tax was 5 percent. In 2014, the legislature debated making the tax permanent.
As a candidate in 2014, Rauner opposed the action saying he wanted the tax increase to expire. The legislature let it sunset in January 2015. Rauner argued less money would force financial discipline, but losing that revenue made Illinois’ financial situation much worse the last two years.
“I think it was historic,” said Davis, a Homewood resident who represents the 30th House district. “We are in unprecedented times. The governor has been pushing hard against what we are trying to do. Yesterday we pushed back.”
Davis, a legislator for 15 years, said House members came to believe that Rauner “was not acting in good faith,” as evidenced by the governor’s actions when bipartisan compromises were proposed in the Senate.
“Whenever there was a compromise proposed in the Senate, he shot it down,” Davis said. Rauner “kept asking for 100 percent of his agenda.”
House Democrats decided to engage Republicans, he said, “but we had to do it in near-secret conditions.”
Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat, acted as the point man.
“He’d say, ‘Here’s our proposal. Look it over.’ And they would give their reply. We went back and forth.”
The process, Davis said, was an illustration of how legislative government is supposed to work – when members of opposing parties set aside their differences to make a decision on what needs to be done.
“In the end, we did exactly what the governor asked for,” he said. “We passed a balanced budget. And it was less than what the governor had proposed.”
Davis said he believes it’s time for Rauner “to start acting like a governor.”
“The governor has been fighting for two years, ever since he took office,” he said. “He has wasted two years of his administration by all this fighting.”
DeLuca, of Chicago Heights, represents Flossmoor in the 80th House District. He said House members all knew the significance of the votes on the budget and veto overrides.
“We knew what was at stake,” DeLuca said. “It was like a pressure cooker. We all knew that the state was on the verge of being at junk bond status and that had never happened [with any state] in the history of our country.”
After two years without a state budget, the stage was set for a “perfect storm” that could turn into a disaster for Illinois, he said.
The final outcome was the result of give-and-take between Democrats and Republicans, DeLuca said, adding that it’s the only way state government can accomplish its goals.
DeLuca said he is personally in favor of some of the reforms that Rauner is seeking.
“I’m committed to reform,” he said. “If we ask taxpayers to pay more money, the House has to look for ways to cut spending.”
DeLuca supports a property tax freeze, calling it a “fair exchange.”
Hutchinson, of Olympia Fields, represents the 40th Senate district, which includes Flossmoor. She released a statement to the press following Thursday’s House veto override.
“For the first time in two years, Illinois has a complete balanced budget,” Hutchinson said. “The governor gets pension changes his administration sought that should produce nearly $1.5 billion in annual savings. There are also resources dedicated in this budget to pay down $8 billion in overdue bills.
“This budget is a responsible step forward that will restore economic stability and certainty to Illinois. We are counting on rating agencies to recognize our progress and the importance of today’s action.”