Illinois House Democrats differ on possibility of tax increases

Illinois statehouse Republicans raised concerns Monday that lawmakers could try to push through a tax increase during the lame-duck session.

The Illinois House will meet beginning Jan. 8.

“Members are advised to make arrangements to be in Springfield on that date through at least January 13, and potentially longer,” House Chief of Staff Jessica Basham said. “House session will occur at the [Bank of Springfield] Center, under substantially the same protocols as were followed in May 2020.”

In May, members of the House met at a convention center in Springfield, instead of the House chambers inside the state capitol, to keep socially distant. House members are being asked to follow a variety of testing, self-isolating and other protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said Republicans are worried that under House Speaker Michael Madigan, past is precedent. Durkin raised concerns about lawmakers trying to sneak a tax increase through the legislature during the lame-duck session.

“Call your state Representative now, let them know that you are not for more taxes and they must reject Madigan as Speaker for the next General Assembly,” Durkin said.

Madigan, the longest-serving statehouse speaker in the nation, doesn’t have the majority support he needs to retain the post when the new legislature is seated on Jan. 13. He’s been implicated in a bribery scheme with ComEd federal prosecutors revealed last year. He has not be charged with a crime and has denied wrongdoing.

House Revenue Committee Chairman state Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, said he doesn’t expect a last-minute tax increase to surface this year despite a 2011 tax hike passed during the lame-duck session.

“It really is not going to be easy for us in a convention center during COVID with a leadership fight going forth to then turnaround and also pass a tax increase,” Zalewski said.

State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said there are around a hundred bills that could be changed last minute. He said that’s how House Speaker Michael Madigan has operated in the past.

“None of these proposals have been publicly vetted, none of them have had committee hearings to debate them, to take input or discussion about,” Demmer said.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, said lawmakers could discuss increasing the state's existing 4.95 percent flat income tax. But, he said they have to have the conversation about increased revenue.

“Hopefully we look at revenue streams that will deal with those that have the ability to pay more,” Ford said.

Ford said it’s important any proposal be vetted with public input before being voted on.

Zalewski said there are ideas some House Democrats have proposed to close what they say are corporate tax loopholes, but he said with the federal stimulus giving money for education and other things the state typically funds, there a bit of a cushion to get to the new general assembly that begins work after Jan. 13.

Republicans have said the state needs to cut spending, not increase revenue.

The state’s budget is nearly $4 billion out of balance.

The Illinois Senate has not officially announced session days but members have been told to be on standby if they need to come in during the lame-duck legislative session to take action.