By Hilary Russell, with Bethany Jaeger contributing
Democrats had the past six years to prevent the deficit facing the state, according to Senate Republicans. And the GOP Caucus says it’s unwilling to concede on raising income taxes to fix the problem.
“We offered suggestions year after year after year about how to deal with it, and we were rebuffed at every turn,” said Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, adding that raising the income tax would create rather than solve problems. “It would put us in a very non-competitive situation with other states, and we would be one of the highest flat rate taxes. If the corporate rate were to go up by a similar amount, then we would be the highest in the world.”
She said the feeling among Senate Republicans is that the Democrats created the mess and, therefore, need to do their own housecleaning. And they can do it without Republicans because the majority party has 37 members, seven more than needed to approve an income tax increase.
Senate President John Cullerton, however, said yesterday, “I don’t think we have 30 Democrats.” The Senate Republicans also do not support shorting the state’s payment into the public employee pension system. Doing so, Radogno said, contributed to the ongoing budget problem and would worsen it.
Reforming state government also is running into a few hurdles. Last week, Radogno sponsored SB 350 on behalf of Gov. Pat Quinn’s Illinois Reform Commission. It would limit campaign contributions to $2,400 for individuals and $5,000 for corporations. It also would limit the amount statewide political parties could donate to their targeted candidates to $30,000.
While Radogno said Republicans are willing to compromise on the number of the campaign contributions limit, the cap on transfers from statewide political parties is a different story. “The fundamental reform has to include leadership committees, and that’s where we can’t compromise. Either they’re in or they’re or out, and, in our view, they must be in.”
The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn its spring session on May 31, although the unresolved issues surrounding an operating budget and a reform package could toss the session into “overtime.” That would mean that all legislation approved after May 31 would need an extra majority of votes, giving Republicans a seat at the table — and a part of the blame — whether they wanted it or not.
Overtime or not, Radogno said her caucus remains calm. “It’s always an interesting last week. My guess is if there’s a sense of panic of might be on the other side of the aisle.”