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Session ends, and we’re back where we started

Legislature skirts income tax decision

Published: Thursday, June 5, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST
Caption
(AP)
Gov. Pat Quinn got a new capital program of sorts from the Legislature, but not the income tax hike extension, the $500 property tax exemption, a minimum wage hike, or an increase in the earned income tax credit.

Earlier this year, speculation ran rampant about the fate of the 67 percent temporary income tax hike, much of which is set to expire Jan. 1.

Although he was repeatedly asked his position on keeping the tax around, Gov. Pat Quinn pretty much ducked the question. He kept that up until his March budget speech, when he declared the tax hike should be made permanent to avoid drastic cuts to state services.

That same day, both Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, said they, too, supported making the tax hike permanent. Madigan also said he expected the issue to be resolved before the end of the spring session.

That appeared to somewhat blunt the cynics who assumed the tax hike would be made permanent, but during a lame-duck session after the November election when lawmakers would either be safely re-elected or defeated and therefore free to vote on the tax extension without fear of facing voters again.

Well, bring back the idea of the lame-duck tax hike. The House Democrats couldn’t or wouldn’t put enough votes on a bill to keep the tax hike permanent. At the same time, you have to prepare a state budget based on the revenue you’re going to get in the upcoming year. In this case, that means a whole lot less in income taxes.

The House Democrats used some of the old gimmicks to minimize the impact, such as borrowing from restricted state funds, but the budget they produced appears to be a crisis waiting to happen.

There are those who think the state can stumble through the first 6 months of the fiscal year before the stuff really hits the fan. That brings us to January.

So we’re sort of back where we started. If Quinn gets re-elected, the pressure will be on to keep the tax hike around with a lame-duck vote on the issue.

If Republican Bruce Rauner wins? Well, he says the tax hike should go away anyway, and he’s got a plan to show how it works. Maybe then we’ll finally see it.

Pat’s bad year

This hasn’t been a particularly good year for Quinn.

He didn’t get the tax extension.

He didn’t get the $500 pre-election checks for property taxpayers (another of his proposals).

He didn’t get an increase in the minimum wage (although he’ll get an advisory referendum).

There’s no increase in the earned income tax credit.

And most of his budgetary priorities went down the drain.

He did get a new capital program of sorts, all of $1 billion for roads and bridges.

It’s a good thing the Legislature is controlled by Democrats. Imagine the carnage if Republicans were in charge.

But like the Chicago Cubs, there’s always next year and the hope it will prove more successful. Except, depending on the November election, this could have been Quinn’s last spring hurrah.

Quotable quotes

“For Pete’s sake, we ought to just let her sell the cupcakes unless someone dies of an overdose of them.”

– Sen. William Haine, D-Alton, speaking against a bill that would impose lengthy regulations on the 11-year-old Cupcake Girl and other amateur home bakers. 

•  •  •

“I haven’t read the language of the amendment.”

– Speaker Madigan in response to a question about a bill he sponsored to make the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum its own state agency.

•  •  •

“It’s the most responsible budget we can pass in this climate, given that everybody is against everything.”

– Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, reflecting frustration that representatives didn’t want to cut the budget and didn’t want to support the taxes needed to pay for it.

•  •  •

“Think of what we could do with $2 billion. We could even buy the L.A. Clippers.”

– Rep. Tom Cross, R-Oswego, on projections the state’s unpaid bill backlog will grow by $2 billion under the new state budget.

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