Read Their Lips: Illinois Democrats Say No Income Tax Hike In Lame-Duck Session

Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan
Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, during an extended session of the Illinois House of Representatives at the Bank of Springfield Center, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Springfield, Ill. Justin L. Fowler / The State Journal-Register via AP Pool
Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan
Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, during an extended session of the Illinois House of Representatives at the Bank of Springfield Center, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Springfield, Ill. Justin L. Fowler / The State Journal-Register via AP Pool

Read Their Lips: Illinois Democrats Say No Income Tax Hike In Lame-Duck Session

Aides to Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Don Harmon on Monday ruled out a state income tax increase during the upcoming, lame-duck legislative session – despite GOP warnings to the contrary.

Lawmakers are set to return to Springfield Friday, and the top House Republican, Jim Durkin, contended a tax hike very well could be on the agenda as part of the embattled speaker’s desperate bid to retain power.

Madigan, of Chicago, is still looking for votes for a 19th term as speaker heading into a Jan. 13 House election. Last month, as he was seeking the endorsement of the House Black Caucus, Madigan said he was prepared to vote for a tax hike if the governor was on board.

“Mike Madigan, in his own words to the Black Caucus, said he’s willing to pass an income tax increase to help out Gov. Pritzker,” said Durkin, of Western Springs. “The lame-duck session should be a warning to every Illinois citizen that they need to be able to get directly to their legislator and say this is not acceptable.”

But Madigan spokesman Steve Brown shot down any notion of an income tax increase happening during the lame-duck session that starts Friday and could stretch through this weekend. The session will end at 11:59 a.m. Jan. 13, when the new class of lawmakers is sworn in.

“Not a tax increase, as such – that’s just not in the cards, I don’t think,” Brown told WBEZ.

Brown said without any advocacy by the governor, the speaker is not prepared to move forward unilaterally on a tax increase.

“I’m not aware of any proposal being made, so I’d say probably not,” he said.

An aide to Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, made clear a tax increase is not on the calendar in his chamber, either.

“The only people talking about raising taxes are Republicans. It’s not happening,” Harmon spokesman John Patterson told WBEZ.

In November, after the defeat of the graduated tax amendment and as a result of the pandemic’s hit on state finances, the governor’s budget office projected Illinois would face a $3.9 billion deficit for the budget year that ends June 30th.

Pritzker has said he’s focused on making spending cuts and hasn’t advocated for any kind of tax increase following the tax amendment’s defeat.

A spokeswoman for the governor confirmed Monday that the administration is not seeking a tax increase during the lame-duck session.

“The governor has presented more than $700 million in budget cuts, yet Republicans have offered no solutions to the fiscal challenges facing the state,” Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said in a statement. “It’s going to take a lot more than empty rhetoric to balance the budget and the Governor looks forward to hearing realistic ideas from Republicans, so the state can balance the budget in a bipartisan fashion.” .

Illinois lawmakers have a history of passing tax increases during the lame-duck period between the November general election and when a new session of the General Assembly is sworn into office in January.

In 2011, under former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, lawmakers in a lame-duck session approved a temporary increase in the state income tax that moved rates for individuals from 3% to 5%. Rates rolled back to 3.75% in 2015 before being increased in 2017 to 4.95%, which is the current rate.

With that history, Durkin remained skeptical of the no tax-increase assurances from Madigan and Harmon’s offices Monday.

“Madigan has passed an income tax increase during lame-duck sessions in the past. I have no reason to believe otherwise, and neither should the taxpayers,” Durkin said.

Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold cover state politics and government for WBEZ. Follow them on Twitter @davemckinney and @tonyjarnold.