Republicans Press For Admission To Budget Talks

May 17, 2019
 
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, at podium, addresses the media with other Republicans Thursday in the Illinois Statehouse.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, at podium, addresses the media with other Republicans Thursday in the Illinois Statehouse.

Brian Mackey/NPR Illinois

Illinois Republicans on Thursday were trying to elbow their way back into budget negotiations.

The move comes as lawmakers have just two weeks left in their annual legislative session, with a long to-do list that includes passing a state budget.

There have been several budget frameworks this spring. Gov. J.B. Pritzker kicked off budget season in February with calls for more spending and increased taxes, while Democrats in the House began from a much more austere place, assuming none of the governor's revenue ideas would come to pass.

Then came the April surprise — an unexpected $1.5 billion in tax collections. That has Republicans urging a middle ground.

While they say they’d support some new spending with that extra money, Rep. Grant Wehrli, a Republican from Naperville, says higher taxes should be out of the question.

“Income, cigarettes, bags, video-streaming, vaping — all those should be off the table until we do the hard work and come up with a balanced budget.”

Although Republicans have relatively small minorities in the House and Senate, Democrats say they’d welcome more negotiations.

But House Majority Leader Greg Harris, from Chicago, says Democrats want to make sure the extra money was not a one-time windfall. He also says Illinois has problems that will be expensive to fix.

“In the last year there have been 119 DCFS youths who have passed away, and we can never let that happen again,” Harris said. “Ladies and gentlemen, that is going to take additional revenue.”

Story source: Illinois Public Radio