Illinois Senate gives final nod to budget in bid to end impasse



By Dave McKinney and Karen Pierog

CHICAGO The Illinois Senate on Tuesday gave final approval to a $36 billion fiscal 2018 spending plan and big income tax hike aimed at ending an unprecedented budget impasse that threatens to push the state’s credit rating to junk.

The Senate passage, which followed House approval of budget bills on Sunday and Monday, will send the legislation to Governor Bruce Rauner, who has vowed to veto the $5 billion tax package.

A stalemate between the state’s Republican governor and Democrats who control the legislature has left the nation’s fifth-largest state without a complete budget for two-straight fiscal years. While fiscal 2018 began on Saturday, lawmakers have been scrambling to piece together a spending and revenue plan to avoid Illinois becoming the first-ever U.S. state whose credit is rated junk.

The budget votes breezed through the Senate with little debate. For the measure that raises personal and corporate income tax rates, only one Republican voted “yes,” Senator Dale Righter, whose district covers one of the most cash-poor universities in the state, Eastern Illinois University.

“Right now, in this moment, in this time, on this day, the choice is simple. Either we live to fight another day or we watch the state crash,” said Senator Toi Hutchinson, a Democrat who sponsored the tax-increase legislation.

The three budget bills that shot out of the chamber on Tuesday came after a plea from newly installed Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady to vote against the package to allow further negotiations on a property tax freeze and workers compensation changes. Both issues are priorities that Rauner had attached to budget talks, but have not advanced.

“It’s regrettable I stand today not capable of supporting this package, not necessarily because what’s in the package is bad but because it’s incomplete,” said Brady, who took over as Senate Republican leader Saturday after his predecessor, Christine Radogno, abruptly resigned.

Two of the three budget bills that passed achieved the bare-minimum 36 votes needed to pass and to override a likely Rauner veto. The third part of the package that contained specific appropriations passed with 39 votes.

(Editing by Matthew Lewis)


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