Thursday, May 29, 2014

House approves increased revenue estimate for next fiscal year

By Jamey Dunn

The House approved an increased estimate of the revenue the state will bring in next fiscal year. The new projection will match the spending that the chamber has approved over the last few days.

In February, the House passed a revenue projection of $34.495 billion with no opposition. Today, that projection was revised up to $35.352 billion over the opposition of Republicans in the chamber. In recent years, the House has approved a revenue estimate and then approved a budget based on that estimate. This year, things happened the other way around. “The process is kind of bass-ackwards here,” said Rep. David Harris, a Republican from Arlington Heights. “We have spent the money, so now we have to come up with a revenue estimate to meet the spending.”

A large portion of the difference between the estimates comes from $650 million that would be borrowed from funds outside of the state’s general operating budget. (For more on these special funds and how they play into the budgeting process, see Illinois Issues, April 2012.) Republicans argued that using money borrowed from other funds means that the state would have to raise more revenue to pay the money back later. “This is an unbalanced budget; this is a fund sweep; and this is a future tax increase,” said Rep. David McSweeney, a Republican from Barrington Hills.

 Marion Democratic Rep. John Bradley, who sponsored the resolution, noted that there are not enough votes to pass legislation maintaining the current income tax rates, which are due to begin stepping down in the middle of next fiscal year. The chamber also voted down a budget with no new revenues and deep cuts. “We are trying to cobble together a budget to get through the next fiscal year, and the next governor, whoever that may be, has got a real fiscal cliff to deal with,” Bradley said on the House floor. “But this budget—this budget—gets us through the next year without the devastating cuts that people were against and without the tax extension that people were against.” Bradley called upon his colleagues to “be realistic” and pass what he called the most responsible budget possible “in this climate given the fact that everybody’s against everything.”

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