6 Things You Should Know On The Final Day Of Illinois’ Legislative Session

Illinois Capitol
The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield on May 31, 2016. Seth Perlman / Associated Press
Illinois Capitol
The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield on May 31, 2016. Seth Perlman / Associated Press

6 Things You Should Know On The Final Day Of Illinois’ Legislative Session

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Wednesday is the final day of the spring legislative session, and the Illinois General Assembly has until midnight to pass a budget with a simple majority. After that, any piece of legislation will need a supermajority of votes in order to advance to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk. 

The Senate passed a budget in May with little support from Republican lawmakers. The House is considering its own version of a budget Wednesday. 

WBEZ reporter Tony Arnold spoke with Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia about what might happen before the clock strikes midnight. Below are highlights from their conversation.

1. Senate Democrats passed their version of a budget, but it’s not a ‘grand bargain’

Tony Arnold: There’s an issue over whether you want to call it a ‘grand bargain,’ mostly because when one side doesn’t get on with it, is it even a bargain anymore? 

What the Senate did was a whole package of maybe a dozen different bills, each very substantial, and they have, for the last two weeks, passed them as part of a budget and also as a way to pay for that budget. 

2. Rauner wants a property tax freeze — and might get one

Arnold: Governor Rauner wants a permanent property tax freeze. In some of the negotiations with the Senate, there was some word that the Republicans would go with a four-year freeze. Just yesterday, Senate Democrats with a few Republicans — I think I counted three maybe — voted for a two-year property tax freeze. This morning in the House, there’s a proposal for a three-year freeze. 

How long this thing lasts for? That’s — welcome to Springfield on the last day of the session. 

The issue is, at the end of the day, the Democrats say this is a bad policy. School districts rely on property taxes and you’re just going to tie their hands. “You’re taking away local control,” they say to the Republicans, “by calling for a property tax freeze across the state.” 

3. But some Rauner priorities have stalled

Arnold: You probably have heard about redistricting reform and term limits. Those have gotten very little to no attention from the lawmakers in the past few weeks. 

4. That illusive Chicago casino

Arnold: What the Senate Democrats passed, there is a gambling bill that adds several casinos around the state, including Chicago. There would also be one in the south suburbs, one in the north suburbs, and then a few downstate. That is one of the big issues. For as long as I’ve been covering Springfield, a Chicago casino has been in the works and has just never gotten enough support. 

5. Yup, taxes

Arnold: In the Senate Democrat plan, there is a whole package of tax increases. It includes a tax increase on the personal income tax — what you and I pay out of our paychecks — to 4.95 percent from 3.75 percent. That proposal is also retroactive to January 1, so that means we’re going to be paying that rate for the past five months now. … 

Think of it this way: If this passes — let’s say it passes all today and it goes into effect tomorrow — that means that while, on paper, your income tax rate is 4.95 percent, it’s actually going to be a little higher than that until the state gets the money that it would’ve gotten had this been in effect on January 1. There’s some debate over the math of what that percent actually is but, the last I saw, was that it would be nearly 6 percent. 

6. All eyes on the House

Arnold: The House Democrats are going to be attacked by Governor Rauner in the next campaign no matter what they do. So the question is: Do they take up some of these things that the Senate did do? Or do they try to do their own plan that maybe isn’t as politically risky? 

Or do they kick this for another month, basically, to the very end of Illinois’ fiscal year, and make this giant push for a crunch to get something done before the real beginning of the next fiscal year, which is July 1? Meaning schools would be in limbo for the next month, not knowing how much money they’re going to be getting from the state, let alone social services, universities, continuing to get zero dollars from the state for another possibly 30 days if there’s no budget.

Follow Tony Arnold on twitter @tonyjarnold for updates Wednesday on the final day of the legislative session.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Click the “play” button above to hear the entire segment