Published 4:17 pm CDT, Saturday, May 25, 2019
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois General Assembly commenced its spring session in January with a bold directive from new Gov. J.B. Pritzker for a balanced budget, legalized marijuana and sports betting, a revamped income tax system, and a multibillion-dollar state construction program.
It enters its final week with most of that work uncompleted.
It’s nothing new. Illinois lawmakers, whose scheduled adjournment is May 31, invariably push their heaviest work off to the closing hours. Once, faced with a midnight end-of-session deadline on a key vote, a Capitol wall clock was stopped so that the vote could be recorded before both hands hit “12.”
Here’s a look at the workload:
Pritzker proposed in February a $39 billion spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1. With billions of dollars of debt serving as the aftershock to a 2015-2017 budget deadlock between Democrats who control the General Assembly and Pritzker’s Republican predecessor, the incoming executive called for financial stability and new tax revenue to pay old bills and chase rising costs. Republicans say the new taxes are unnecessary and would simply fuel runaway spending.
An unexpected $1.5 billion increase in April income tax revenue apparently took care of a deficit in the current budget and relieved the need for Pritzker to pursue a plan to delay some of next year’s required payments to pension systems. Republicans contend that the “April surprise” and estimated increases in next year’s revenue eliminate the need for any new taxes.
Pritzker’s plan for the 2020 fiscal year still banks on $212 million from sports gambling and $170 million in licensing fees for nascent recreational marijuana growers and retailers. Legalizing those two industries are on the list of issues awaiting