Who’s winning and who’s losing in the budget talks

WGN Investigates looked into the impact of the state budget bill – not only on Illinois residents but also the politicians who supported it.

WGN Investigates talked to Karen Moore.  She earns $50,000 a year.  And if the income tax hike goes through, she’ll pay an additional $574 each year.

Roger McKelvey makes $170,000 a year.  The tax hike would clip him for an additional $2,048.

“I’m looking at it as big picture,” he says.  “I don’t know how we’ll dig ourselves out with spending cuts only.”

That’s one thing there seems to be almost universal agreement on in Springfield: Illinois’ financial situation is so bad, cuts alone won’t solve it.

The fix has stymied lawmakers for years.

So, what changed this week?

For one, House Speaker Mike Madigan was able to get some of Governor Rauner’s republicans to defect.

“The budget making process has historically been some combination of a carrot and or a stick,” former Illinois State Representative John Fritchey said.

The “stick” for all of them has been a nearly bankrupt state and simmering anger among constituents.

But some of the key players also enjoyed a few carrots.

For example, Republican State Senator Dale Righter.  He was the key swing vote.  And two days earlier $4.8 million was added to the budget bill for Eastern Illinois University in his home district.

That led one colleague to call him a “turncoat.”

Over in the House, that same day Represent Greg Harris, who is one of Speaker Madigan’s budget negotiators, got an earmark for $15 million for a new Metra station in his district.

“That tells us there’s a vote buying going on,” said Ted Dabrowski of the Illinois Policy Institute.  “If a bill isn’t passed, they can start giving some goodies to some legislators in order to buy their vote.  That’s just plain wrong.”

“The reality is sometimes members need to be encouraged,  whether it’s funding universities in their district or a certain project of importance,” Fritchey said. “That’s just the nature of the beast.”

Meanwhile, Illinois residents are left paying for it all.

Republicans and Democrats can't even agree on whether this tax hike will balance the budget. Democrats say yes. The governor’s office says Illinois still won't take in more money than it spends.