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The Latest: Cullerton says OK’d budget had GOP input

May 24, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Latest on legislative action in Springfield (all times local):

7:25 p.m.

Senate President John Cullerton says Democrats had little choice but to approve a budget proposal on their own after a compromise package with Republicans failed last week.

A $37.3 billion spending outline funded by a $5.4 billion tax increase was OK’d Tuesday in the Senate without a single Republican vote. Cullerton couldn’t lure any GOP votes last week when he sought endorsement of a budget plan that had even more spending cuts initiated by Republicans.

The Chicago Democrat told reporters the budget and even the tax increases were “the product of negotiations with Republicans.”

Republicans didn’t support the budget or tax increase because they were seeking a trade for a property tax freeze and cost-reductions to the workers’ compensation program. Those are among “structural” changes GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner has sought.

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6:30 p.m.

The Senate minority leader says Republicans can’t support the budget Democrats approved because there haven’t been the accompanying “structural” changes that Gov. Bruce Rauner wants.

Christine Radogno (ruh-DOHN’-yoh) is a Lemont (lih-MAHNT’) Republican. She’s been out front of her party’s months-long negotiation with Democrats over the so-called “grand bargain” budget compromise.

But Tuesday she listened from her office to debate as Democrats pushed through a $5.4 billion tax increase to fund a $37.3 billion budget Democrats say is balanced.

She says Democrats must still OK a property tax freeze and workers’ compensation cost reductions.

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4:45 p.m.

The Illinois Senate has approved a $5 billion income tax increase to fund what Democrats say would be a balanced, $37.3 billion budget.

A Democratic majority pushed the measures through despite opposition from Republicans.

Sen. Toi Hutchinson said there’s little time left and the House must have a chance to debate the budget before the scheduled May 31 adjournment. The Olympia Fields Democrat sponsored the tax bill that increases the personal income tax from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent. Sales taxes would be applied to services for the first time.

Spending plan sponsor Sen. Heather Steans (STAYNZ’) of Chicago says the $37.3 billion spending outline matches the one GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner introduced in February. She says many of the $3 billion in spending reductions were proposed by the GOP.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago released a statement saying his budget experts will carefully consider the proposals.

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4:00 p.m.

House Democrats are again calling on GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner to join them in striking a deal to break Illinois’ two-year-long budget logjam.

House Democratic Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie on Tuesday read from the chamber floor a letter her caucus sent to Rauner last week urging him to negotiate with them. She says her caucus has repeatedly “offered the olive branch” only to be ignored.

Currie noted higher education and social services have received no state support since a temporary spending plan expired in December. She says entering a third year without a budget would be “unconscionable.”

House Republican Minority Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs countered that House Democrats have failed to negotiate in good faith over structural issues Republicans say are key to a balanced budget.

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3:25 p.m.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is warning Senate Democrats he won’t sign a budget that increases income taxes without “a true, lasting property tax freeze.”

The Republicans made a “Facebook Live” statement Tuesday as Democrats in the Senate prepared to vote on a budget plan that could win approval without GOP votes.

He says the biggest problem in reaching the state’s first budget agreement in two years is “resistance to freezing your property taxes and giving you the ability to control whether your property taxes go up or down.”

Democrats have a budget plan to tackle a multibillion-dollar deficit that includes a 32 percent increase in the income tax rate. Rauner says he won’t approve that unless there’s a freeze on local property taxes.

Senate Democrats have proposed a two-year freeze. Republican senators have insisted it be at least four years and include ability for local voters to decide whether taxes go up.

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12:40 p.m.

Senate Democrats are paring back on the services that would be subject for the first time to the Illinois sales tax.

The Revenue Committee discussed changes Tuesday to a revenue measure that’s not been called on the Senate floor.

Heavy lobbying has convinced the Senate to remove landscaping and home maintenance and personal services except for tattooing and piercing. Storage units and dry cleaning would be taxed under the measure at 6.25 percent.

Committee chairwoman Toi Hutchinson is a Democrat from Olympia Fields. She says it’s good tax policy to expand the sales tax to services. But making it happen in a legislative environment takes jostling and concessions.

The plan still includes a 32 percent increase in the personal income tax rate. It would go from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent.

Hutchinson says the tax increases combined would raise $5.4 billion in revenue.

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11:30 a.m.

House Democrats have proposed a plan to subsidize higher education costs for college students who choose to stay in Illinois.

Democratic Reps. Lou Lang of Skokie and Will Guzzardi and Christian Mitchell of Chicago announced their plan Tuesday. It would provide full-time Illinois students attending a public university or community college with a yearly grant capped at $4,000.

Students who maintain a B average with families earning less than $125,000 annually would qualify.

Lang says the plan would support Illinois’ economy by incentivizing students to stay. He says over a quarter of the growing number of Illinois students attending out-of-state colleges never return.

Students would start receiving grants in 2018 at an estimated cost of $300 million.

The proposal would also create a faculty-retention fund and a debt relief program.

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The bill is HB1316.

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11:10 a.m.

Senate Democrats are proposing a backup state budget plan that doesn’t cut some vital areas as much as a proposal that narrowly won approval last week.

Sen. Heather Steans’ (STAYNZ’) plan would spend $37.3 billion. A measure spending 2 percent less was OK’d last week but with only Democratic votes.

It’s an attempt by the Senate to open the door to Illinois’ first annual budget in two years. First-term Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has sparred with Democrats who run the General Assembly over raising taxes to settle a deficit.

Steans’ budget plan projects the same level of spending Rauner himself proposed in February. The Democratic senator from Chicago says it still includes steep spending reductions but forgoes a previous $400 million cut to Medicaid.

Income and other taxes would be increased to bring in $5.5 billion.

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4 a.m.

The Illinois Senate could take up some lingering issues related to the “grand bargain” budget compromise.

Senators were winding down to a possible vote Tuesday on changes to the workers’ compensation system. It’s one of the “structural” changes Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has demanded during the two-year budget stalemate.

Democrats have argued that significant cost-saving measures were enacted in 2011, but those savings have not been passed along to business owners in the form of lower premiums.

Democratic Senate President John Cullerton of Chicago made workers’ comp part of the attempted compromise he hatched with Republican Leader Christine Radogno (ruh-DOHN’-yoh) of Lemont (lih-MAHT’) last winter.

As it stands now, medical fees paid to doctors would be cut significantly under the bill. Medical fees were cut by 30 percent in 2011.

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