SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - House Speaker Michael Madigan said Wednesday that "a good place to begin" in mending a multibillion-dollar spending hole would be to return the state income tax to 5 percent, its level during a temporary hike that expired in January with then-Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner's blessing.
Although Madigan has made no secret of his support for higher taxes during the months-long fiscal standoff, his response to an audience question after a luncheon speech to a packed City Club of Chicago gathering represented his first mention of a specific number.
"Let me avoid creating a headline for tomorrow's newspaper and say that a good place to begin ... would be the level we were at before the income tax expired," the speaker said. "Starting there, you can go in whatever direction you want to go."
He did not elaborate.
Madigan and the Democrats who hold supermajorities in both the House and Senate have been in a standoff with the conservative businessman governor over the state budget, which should have taken effect July 1.
Democrats want to catch up to the deficit with a tax increase and spending cuts. Rauner counters the problems are deeper and is demanding far-reaching changes to make operating business cheaper. His plan would curb union power by crimping prevailing wage rages and collective bargaining and limit payouts in workers' compensation and liability lawsuits.
A spokeswoman for the governor did not respond to a request for comment. But the GOP leader of the Senate, Christine Radogno of Lemont, called it "outrageous" to suggest higher taxes with "no reforms to change the way we do business."
Rauner's victory over former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn last year dashed Democrats' hopes to extend the four-year, 67 percent temporary increase imposed under Quinn. The rate went from 3 percent to 5 percent - producing $7 billion a year - but the 2011 law required it to roll back to 3.75 percent without action to extend it.
Madigan continues to label as "extreme" Rauner's proposed changes and has repeatedly called for the governor to operate "in moderation."
Three stopgap budget plans lawmakers have been able to put together with Rauner - including one Monday which released $3 billion, mostly in already-collected tax revenue - were possible, Madigan said, because of "one little difference: The governor was not demanding changes in workers compensation, collective bargaining, (or the) prevailing wage."
State government continues to lurch forward on the back of spending ordered by federal courts and limited action by Rauner and lawmakers. But Madigan said losers include social service agencies which have not received what typically is $6 billion a year from the state.
Hours after his speech, Madigan's office issued a statement saying he has no plans to move legislation that would raise taxes. He also reiterated the need for a "balanced approach" that includes cuts and tax increases.
In response to Speaker Madigan’s call for a 33% income tax increase “as a good place to begin,” Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno had the following to say:
“It’s a busy time of year for most families, but taxpayers need to pay close attention. The powerful Democrat leadership is proposing a whopping 33% income tax increase – with no reforms to change the way we do business in Illinois. It’s outrageous and shows what we Republican legislators and Governor Rauner are up against in the state budget negotiations. The citizens of Illinois want structural reforms that will lead to a more competitive Illinois economy and middle class economic growth, while protecting the taxpayers.”