Lawmakers pass income tax hike; Rep. collapses on Senate floor
By Dave McKinney and Stephen Di Benedetto Staff Reporters January 11, 2011 2:20PM
House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) listens to lawmakers argue state budget legislation Tuesday in Springfield. | Seth Perlman~AP
Updated: May 5, 2011 4:18PM
SPRINGFIELD — Closing out a contentious lame-duck legislative session, Illinois Democrats handed Gov. Quinn a major political victory early Wednesday by voting to raise the state income tax by 66 percent and buy him some financial stability for his first full term in office.
The state Senate voted 30-29 at 1:20 a.m. to send the tax-hike package to the governor about 10 minutes after paramedics carried state Rep. David Miller (D-Lynwood) off the Senate floor on a stretcher.
Miller was taken to St. John’s Hospital, but as of 6 a.m., he had been released, according to hospital spokeswoman Sherry Puccetti. Puccetti said she believed he was treated for dizziness.
Miller, the Democratic candidate for state comptroller in the November elections, collapsed at about 12:45 a.m. while watching the Senate debate. The 48-year-old lawmaker's sudden illness cast a pall over the tax vote.
The boost in the amount the state withholds from workers paychecks from 3 percent to 5 percent would drain $800 from the household budget of a family earning $40,000 a year and take effect immediately if the governor signs off.
The tax vote represented only part of what Quinn, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) sought to shore up an expected $15 billion budget deficit.
The House twice voted down a bid to borrow $8.75 billion to pay unpaid bills owed by the state and rejected a $1.01-a-pack hike in the state cigarette tax that would have pumped $375 million into cash-strapped school districts.
Other things thrown on the legislative scrap heap included a $1 billion-a-year plan to open a Chicago casino and four others and a proposal to overhaul the state’s worker’s compensation laws that was bitterly opposed by labor unions.
“It wasn’t easy, but we made it through. We accomplished a lot,” said Madigan, who passed the tax hike by a razor-thin 60-57 margin in his chamber. “We could have accomplished more.”
After the Senate vote on the income-tax hike, senators approved a $4 billion borrowing plan already approved by the House that would cover what the state owes this year to its five pension systems.
In the House, the budget vote followed roughly 90 minutes of debate in which ruling Democrats argued there was no other alternative but to raise the income tax to fund vital state-funded human services and education programs afloat.
“Illinois is in crisis, absolute financial crisis, and there is no way we can dig ourselves out of the crisis without increased revenues,” said House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), the bill’s chief House sponsor.
The full increase in the individual income tax would last four years before dropping to 4 percent; in 2025, the rate would drop to 3.5 percent. Spending caps would limit future spending growth to 2 percent annually. If spending overshot that limit, the tax rates would revert to their current levels.
Before the vote, Quinn and Madigan retooled the income-tax package by scrapping $325 property tax rebates proposed for all homeowners and instead chose to keep the 5-percent property-tax credit now offered homeowners, a concession sought by suburban Democrats.
The House roll call on the tax vote, which boosted the corporate income tax from 4.8 percent to 7 percent, fell strictly along party lines with no Republicans supporting the plan in either chamber.
After the House vote, a jubilant Quinn showed up briefly on the chamber’s floor, shaking hands with Democratic House members and patting them on the back. He left through the back exit of the House chamber, avoiding any questions from reporters.
GOP critics said the legislation would harm middle-class families and was the byproduct of eight-years of overspending by the Blagojevich and Quinn administrations.
“I’ve been here eight years, and we stand up every time one of these bloated budgets are presented, and we consistently have warned that this day is coming,” said Rep. Roger Eddy (R-Hutsonville), who opposed the tax increase.
“The time to be adults was eight years ago, when we were adding programs, expanding spending to a point we couldn’t pay for it, and we knew very well we couldn’t pay for it,” Eddy said.