Tuesday, February 25, 2014

House approves revenue estimate

By Caitlin Rydinsky

A revenue projection passed unanimously today by the Illinois House anticipates a $1.5 billion revenue loss for state government next fiscal year.

The number approved by the House, $34.495 billion, is based on the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability's (COGFA) estimated state income for the coming year. Lawmakers will have less money to work with as they put together the Fiscal Year 2015 budget because the temporary income tax will begin to sunset during the second half of the fiscal year.

In recent years, lawmakers have generally stuck to the spending number approved by the House when creating the budget.

The Governor’s Budget Office projects a revenue amount that is larger than the House’s number by $705 million. However, legislators said they are encouraged that Gov. Pat Quinn’s number is close to theirs. “And I want to compliment the governor’s office because their numbers were very similar to the COGFA numbers this time, and I find that very heartening because a lot of other times, they have been very far apart,” said Democratic Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo.

Rep. Robert Prichard, a Republican from Hinckley, said, “Indeed they were very close, but I think what’s most important in this is that we are living within the laws that this body has set and that we are moving forward with a revenue number that is a realistic number.” Although the Republicans supported the projected revenue with the Democrats, they reminded Democrats that differences in opinions would arise once legislators begin debating spending decisions. “I just want to make this perfectly clear: We are supporting the revenue; it doesn’t mean that we are supporting the budget,” said House Minority Leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs. “We are ready to work with you for a responsible budget for the taxpayers of Illinois, with emphasis that we need to do a greater job at reducing the state debt than what we are doing.”

Rep. William Davis, a Democrat from Lewistown, hesitated in his decision to agree with the budget because of the possibility of more revenue coming to the state. Davis said money could come in as a result of recent talks about changing the way businesses are taxed. “I am concerned about this not being the complete revenue picture. It may be where we are right now,” Davis said. But he wants lawmakers to leave the door open to considering the potential for more revenue. Davis chairs the House K-12 budgeting committee and wants additional money to be spent on education — including general state aid to schools — which has been cut in previous years. Although the House passed its resolution and passed a joint resolution in the hopes that the Senate would also adopt its revenue projection, lawmakers are not legally bound to stick to the agreed amount.

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