(Springfield, IL) — February 9, 2010. The primary is over, but the waiting is not for Illinois lawmakers.
The Illinois House and Senate return to Springfield this week, and lawmakers have low expectations. Many legislators say they doubt much of anything will happen during this legislative session.
State Senator Larry Bomke (R-Springfield) said the state is still facing a $13 billion budget deficit. And he said there’s little support for a tax increase or the massive budget cuts it would take to erase the debt.
“There’s not going to be additional revenue. So we’re either going to pass last year’s budget or reduce last year’s budget.”
Bomke said Republicans are already lining-up to oppose Governor Pat Quinn’s tax increase proposal. And he said any tax increase vote will likely have to come from the Illinois House.
State Senator Toi W. Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) said that kind of talk is part of the problem at the Illinois Capitol this year.
“What’s the cost of doing nothing?” said Hutchinson. She said there may be some support for a tax increase this year, but she’s not sure if it will be Quinn’s proposal.
Hutchinson said lawmakers need to put the February primary behind them and focus on the real problems of the state. Even though she’s not sure that can happen.
“If politics were a consideration in February they’re only going to be worse in November” she said.
Lawmakers ended last spring’s session and the fall veto session with a wait-and-see attitude toward the February primary. Many legislators said they didn’t want to vote for a tax increase or large budget cuts then have to face voters on February 2.
But that wait-and-see mood is likely to continue into the spring.
State Rep. Rich Myers (R-Macomb) said Quinn wants to delay his budget address until March and that will delay the rest of the work in Springfield as well.
“To be honest, I think what we’re hearing it’s going to be the same as in the past.”
Myers said he doesn’t believe the governor will find support for his 50 percent tax increase unless there is a serious effort to trim the state budget first.
“I’m not saying a tax increase couldn’t pass. But there are a lot of people out there on both sides of the aisle who’d like to see some spending reforms before a tax increase is passed.”
State Rep. Pat Verschoore (D-Milan) said the state needs to pay its bills before it looks at spending cuts.
“As far [back] as six months they have not paid my medical bills. I’m starting to get threatening bill collector notices…So something has to be done there.”
Verschoore said he’s willing to wait to see what Quinn is proposing before starting to work on the budget. But he’s all but ruling out a tax increase. Verschoore said he doesn’t see how the governor can get a tax hike through the General Assembly.
–Benjamin Yount, Illinois Statehouse News