SPRINGFIELD — One day before Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s budget address, House Republican lawmakers called for another “inclusive” and “bipartisan” effort at adopting a state budget without new taxes.
“Let’s go back in time to last spring. Through a bipartisan effort and agreements in both chambers, we were able to craft a balanced budget with no new taxes for fiscal year 2020,” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said Feb. 18. “That was a great and successful example of give-and-take negotiations.”
Lawmakers approved a $40 billion budget last year with several demands from Republican lawmakers for pro-business reforms. Those included tax incentives 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.
Those priorities were added to the budget late in the legislative session after weeks of Republicans claiming their voices were not being heard by the Democratic governor.
“We have learned by example when we work together in a bipartisan manner, we respect each other’s priorities, we can accomplish and have accomplished great things for our state,” Durkin said. “If that same willingness exists today, we can come back with the same result, a balanced budget that protects the citizens of Illinois with no new taxes, nor any tax increases.”
New taxes passed on parking garages, cigarettes and gasoline last year, as well as increased driver’s license and other fees, went to fund a multi-year capital infrastructure plan — not the state’s operating budget. That proposal had bipartisan support as well, including a vote from Durkin.
This year, Durkin said, the budget shouldn’t depend on “hypothetical revenues” that could result if the governor’s signature proposal — a constitutional amendment creating a graduated-rate income tax structure charging higher rates on higher income earners — is voted into law in the November general election.
In last year’s budget address, Pritzker said the fiscal year 2020 budget, which ends June 30, was a “bridge” to when greater revenues — an estimated $3.4 billion — become available from the graduated income tax.
“We should discuss real money, not money that is based on hypotheticals or possibilities down the road. The issue at hand is what we have to deal with this fiscal year,” Durkin said.
Deputy Minority Leader Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said House appropriations committees worked last year to find budget saving. They can play the same role this year.
“In the projected revenues for the state for next year, just in the three largest areas of personal income taxes, corporate income taxes, and sales taxes, we have projected growth of nearly a billion dollars in new revenue, thanks to a strong economic performance across the state the last year and continued growth that we’ve seen across the country,” he said.
He said appropriations committees could prioritize where any new funding could go, such as increasing the budget for the Department of Children and Family Services, a proposal Pritzker is expected to support in his budget address Wednesday, according to several news outlets.
Demmer also said DCFS would also require further legislative reforms, not just new tax revenue.
“Rank-and-file members should be involved in how we allocate the new revenues that are a result of economic performance and growth and not the result of new tax increases,” he said, adding new revenues can be combined with “commonsense ways to reduce spending in government that seem at least to have bipartisan support right now.”
Rep. Dan Brady, a Bloomington Republican, said a $1.5 billion April tax revenue windfall helped lawmakers balance a budget last year while increasing investment in higher education.
He said the “stability” of that increased funding should be able to carry into fiscal year 2021 with “bipartisan support.”
Pritzker’s budget address is scheduled for noon Wednesday in Springfield.