Illinois House approves $5 billion tax hike as budget talks continue

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill.  — The Illinois House voted to approve a $5 billion income tax increase Sunday, although the version presented by majority Democrats was new and Republicans accused them of a bait and switch.

The House voted 72-45 Sunday on a 32 percent increase in the personal income tax rate as part of a plan to end the nation's longest budget standoff. It would go from 3.75 percent to just under 5 percent. It passed with one more vote than necessary to override a veto from the Governor.

Democratic Rep. Greg Harris of Chicago sponsored the measure. He says the increase is necessary to avoid financial catastrophe. Bond-rating houses have threatened to downgrade Illinois' creditworthiness to "junk" status without action.

More than a dozen Republicans voted for the measure. But some argued that lawmakers need more financial restraint.

Governor Bruce Rauner has promised to veto the bill.

Sunday was the second day of the fiscal year. It marks the start of the third year in a row without a state budget — the longest fiscal drought of any state since the Great Depression. The standoff has left a $6.2 billion annual deficit and $14.7 billion in overdue bills.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats who control the General Assembly have locked horns since Rauner took office in 2015. The governor won’t agree to a budget until he gets “structural” business- and political changes he says will boost commerce, as well as a statewide property tax freeze to help homeowners.

The mood was markedly different from Friday, when Democrats and Republicans alike overwhelmingly voted for a $36.5 billion spending plan. It was a preliminary test, but both sides assumed talks would continue and a final vote on spending would follow Saturday and then a vote on taxes increases.

After approving the tax measure, the House also passed a revised spending plan of about $36 billion.

The Senate is scheduled to take up both measures on Monday.

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