A cuts budget, or a no-cuts budget? Either way, whatever Illinois lawmakers pass before the May 31 deadline is likely to include all of the $5 billion income tax increase passed over the governor's veto last summer.
The four legislative leaders and Gov. Bruce Rauner met in the governor's office Thursday morning in Springfield to talk about the budgeting process. One thing Republicans say was agreed on was for both the House and Senate to pass an official revenue estimate.
The state constitution requires lawmakers to pass a budget that only spends what's estimated to come in for the year. While the Senate has passed a revenue estimate in recent years, the House hasn’t. The number is typically a combination of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget and input from the General Assembly.
The Illinois Policy Institute put out a study that showed five of the past ten years COGFA and GOMB’s revenue estimates were off by millions. In fiscal years 2013 and 2014, GOMB under former Gov. Pat Quinn was off by $2.1 billion and $1 billion respectively.
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said it will be easier to get the estimate and a balanced budget.
“[Rauner is] assuming that the tax increase that he vetoed was obviously needed,” Cullerton said. “That’s why it was included in his budget. So I’m going to assume that he is supportive now of the revenue estimates that he has in his own budget that have the tax increase in place."
Rauner has said he wants to reform pensions to save money and lower the state's flat income tax rate.
Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, said Democrats were not open to reducing rates.
“We asked [the Democrats], ‘you have the majority, could you pass a budget that allowed for those cuts that we Republicans would like to see in tax rates?’ and they said ‘no,’ ” Brady said.
Brady said members from both parties will be meeting to hash out more budget details.
House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, released a statement after the meeting.
“If the governor’s agenda is to push more of his extreme cuts … he should stay on the sidelines,” Madigan said.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said there needs to be cuts in appropriations.
“We have to be wise with our spending and I think the goal is we have to scale back,” Durkin said. “We don’t need to spend everything.”
The state’s bipartisan government forecasting group estimates the state will bring in $37 billion in revenue for the coming fiscal year.
Lawmakers have until May 31 to pass a balanced budget with simple majorities.