The Illinois House approved measures to increase penalties for repeat gun offenders, automatically register people to vote and protect immigrants in the face of a federal crackdown during a busy Memorial Day that provided plenty of distractions from the state’s most pressing issue: the lack of a budget.
Lawmakers are supposed to go home for the summer after Wednesday, and it remains unclear how Democrats who control the General Assembly, plan to move forward on the state’s annual spending plan. Illinois has gone without a complete budget since July 2015 amid a stalemate between Democrats and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has insisted on various political and economic changes before he’d cut a deal.
While Senate Democrats approved a budget blueprint last week that relies on an income tax increase, sales tax expansion and new levies on satellite and streaming services, their House counterparts have been reluctant to embrace the plan. They note Rauner already has threatened to veto the package because it does not include a property tax freeze. Some worry about getting attacked politically for voting for tax hikes that don’t even end up becoming law.
House Democrats are privately weighing alternative proposals, but the same concerns persist. Even so, they gave initial approval to the Senate tax plan during a committee hearing late Monday. Still, sponsoring Rep. Will Davis, D-Homewood, would not say whether the bill will be called as-is or if there will be changes before a House vote.
Many House Democrats are opposed to the bill being retroactive to Jan. 1. The Senate-approved version would raise the personal income tax rate from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent. But the Jan. 1 provision means that rate effectively would be about 5.8 percent for the rest of this year. Others oppose extending the sales tax to services or imposing taxes on satellite TV bills.
“It’s an ongoing conversation as to exactly where we are going to…