News Column

Lawmakers nearing end of spring session and still no budget

May 27, 2014

By John Byrne, Chicago Tribune



May 27--The General Assembly will be back in session today on one of the last days of the spring session, with lawmakers still trying to agree on a state budget.

The Senate is set to reconvene at 10 a.m. and the House at 11:30 a.m.

House Speaker Michael Madigan said on Memorial Day that he wants to put together a satisfactory budget before Saturday's scheduled adjournment that does not rely on the revenue from the state income tax rate remaining at 5 percent.

The personal rate is scheduled to drop from 5 percent to 3.75 percent Jan. 1. Gov. Pat Quinn has been pushing to keep it at its current level, but it isn't clear he will be able to find the votes in the General Assembly to make that happen.

Sixty votes are needed in the House to extend the tax increase, and Madigan has said during the past few days that only 34 of the 71 House Democrats are prepared to vote for it.

House Democrats narrowly approved a roughly $38 billion budget two weeks ago that counted on the tax hike staying in place, but there hasn't been enough support to extend the increase. On Friday, a budget that was about $3 billion less failed overwhelmingly.

Madigan meanwhile has advanced a bill to the full House that would make the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum a separate state agency. Madigan said he was responding to problems with the current set-up, which has the museum under the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

Opponents worried the museum would become a patronage haven if it becomes its own entity, and the Quinn Administration estimated it would cost $2.4 million to make the switch at a time when other historic sites are considered for closing because of the state's budget problems.

A House panel also passed a measure Monday that would speed up the start of "fracking" in southern and central Illinois -- a process that extracts oil and natural gas by pressuring it out of the ground. The bill's sponsor says it contains strong environmental protections, but a citizens group is seeking to block it so current checks and balances can play out.

jebyrne@tribune.com

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Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)