Future is unclear for Illinois Senate’s ‘Grand Bargain’


Ken Ross/VW Pics/Zuma Press/TNS

A few Democratic state representatives introduced legislation last week to increase protections for immigrants in Illinois. The bill would no longer require schools, medical facilities and places of worship to give access to federal immigration authorities or local law enforcement working on their behalf.

Nora Shelly, City Editor

An ambitious package of bills proposed by a bipartisan Senate leaders stalled in committee Tuesday, leaving the possibility of a proposed Wednesday vote unclear.

The bills, which include an income tax hike, an increase in the minimum wage, measures for pension reform and a property tax freeze, were introduced earlier in the month before the new General Assembly was sworn in. However, votes stalled on the package, which is intended to end the budget stalemate.

Illinois is once again without a budget or spending plan after a six-month stopgap budget ran out on Jan. 1. The passage of the stopgap budget in June followed a year-long budget stalemate that left many institutions of higher education and social services agencies without necessary funding.

Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), who crafted the bills with Senate minority leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), said in a statement the ongoing budget impasse was “frustrating.”

“It’s time to act. The Senate is committed to finding a bipartisan path to a balanced budget,” he said in the statement. “Today’s hearings are an important step in achieving that goal.”

Several bills were discussed in committees on Tuesday, such as a bill aiming to impose several sales taxes. The bill originally included a 1 percent tax on sugary drinks. However, senators proposed on Tuesday to drop the sugary drinks tax and keep taxes on several services, such as laundry, dry cleaning, landscaping and sporting events. The bill also calls for an increase in the income tax for the state.

The bill was met with opposition from several people who gave testimony at the committee meeting, including Michael Lucci, the vice president of policy at the Illinois Policy Institute. Lucci said he was concerned an increase in the income tax would lead to increased out-migration from the state.

“What we’re looking at is to raise the income tax on people who are looking to leave the state,” he said at a committee meeting. “(We should) look more towards spending reforms as a solution to address the financial problems of the state.”

Cullerton said he was not concerned about the negative feedback.

“When you have people testifying that everybody’s against the bill, you know you’ve drafted a pretty good bill because you’ve got a compromise,” he said at a news conference.

The Senate is reconvening tomorrow, but it is still up in the air on whether it will vote on the packages. Gov. Bruce Rauner, who last week said it was “premature” for him to comment on the bills package, will give his “State of the State” address tomorrow afternoon.

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Twitter: @noracshelly