With Expanded Sales Tax, Senators Say Budget Negotiations Still On Track

Feb 7, 2017

The Illinois Senate is still negotiating a compromise to finally rectify the state's historic failure to enact a budget. The proposal has changed a lot in the month since it was introduced. 

Here's the latest:

Some of the plan’s core elements are still there: a higher income tax rate, changes to workers’ compensation, and a real state budget. But now senators are also looking at expanding the sales tax to cover more kinds of purchases — like food and drugs.

The expanded sales tax would be at a lower rate — cut by a penny for every two dollars in spending.

State Sen. Heather Steans, from Chicago, was with fellow Democrats discussing the matter in private for 3½ hours.

"A number of us came out of there thinking, if anything, we picked up votes," Steans said Tuesday evening. "So I was happy about that."

Of course even if this compromise can get through the Senate, it faces an uncertain future in the Illinois House, and with Gov. Bruce Rauner.

One of the big outstanding questions is how many Senate Republicans will join the effort, especially since Rauner has refused to say whether he would sign or veto it.

But on Tuesday evening — after a closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans — McHenry Sen. Pamela Althoff dismissed those concerns.

“I thought the conversation was on target," Althoff said. "I think in general, the members are committed to trying to move this forward. I believe that there is great opportunity here.”