House Democrats Play Coy On Taxes

May 14, 2014

Credit Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Illinois House Democrats are assembling a budget plan for state government. But a big piece of the puzzle is being left out.

The plan makes it seem obvious House Democrats have heeded Gov. Pat Quinn's call to keep the income tax rate at 5 percent. Except they won't actually say that out loud.

Rep. Greg Harris of Chicago typified the coyness.

"This always comes own to the last couple weeks," he says, "and we have to look at different sources of revenue. We have to look at: Do we add here? Do we cut there?"

House Democrats are said to be having a hard time getting the required 60 of their 71 members to commit to extending the tax hike.

The strategy seems to be: pass a bunch of spending bills that preserve popular state services, then lawmakers will see the light on keeping taxes higher to pay for them.

Another hypothesis has them putting off the tax vote until after the November election -- high tide for unpopular legislation.

Republicans, like Rep. Mike Bost of Murphysboro, say they've been shut out of budget talks.

"I think it's very important for the citizens of the state of Illinois to know how much of a farce this is," Bost says.

Republican say that by committing to spending without a way to pay for it, Democrats are heading down a path that's at best irresponsible, and possibly illegal.