By Andrew Thomason | Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD — The stage has been set for a spending showdown between the General Assembly and Gov. Pat Quinn.
The Illinois Senate on Wednesday set its revenue projection for the upcoming fiscal year at $33.7 billion, $200 million lower than Quinn’s revenue projection of $33.9 billion. The Illinois House last week approved the same revenue projection as the Senate.
Revenue projections became important to the budgeting process, starting last year because of a new state law that requires the state budget to be based on projected income, not wants and needs.
“We’re going to have to make even deeper discretionary spending cuts than the governor proposed,” said state Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Ridge Park, chairman of the Illinois Senate Appropriations II Committee, one of two such committees in the Senate.
Quinn based his projection on economic forecasts from national firms, and historic tax and employment records from state agencies, said Kelly Kraft, Quinn’s budget spokeswoman.
“Quinn proposed a responsible budget based on these estimates, which allowed for continued investment in education while making difficult decisions in other areas of government to find cost efficiencies due to decades of fiscal mismanagement,” Kraft said.
Kraft declined to say whether the governor would back away from his original $33.9 billion figure, only noting that governor will work with the Legislature to reach a spending agreement.
The General Assembly also based its revenue projections on economic forecasts, and historic tax records, though lawmakers used more conservative calculations for the rate of growth of the state's income.
Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, called the General Assembly’s revenue projection a good first step.
“Unfortunately, adopting the revenue estimate may be the easiest part of this whole process. It’s going to be difficult to come to a consensus on the spending number,” Radogno said.
Radogno warned that the $33.7 billion is not a spending cap. She urged the General Assembly to spend less than the projected revenue to start remedying the state’s longtime cash flow conundrum, something not even a 67 percent individual income tax increase has fixed.
“If we do not get on that path this year, not only will the tax increase not sunset, but there absolutely will have to be an additional tax (increase) in the future,” Radogno said.
The 2011 income tax increase is set to roll back for the most part by the end of 2014, and will completely disappear by 2025, taking with it the billions of dollars in increased income with it.
Kotowski said that any revenue generated above the $33.7 billion figure would go to paying off the state’s $8.5 billion pile of overdue bills.
Having the Senate and the House agree on the amount the state will have to spend starts the process off on a more cordial tone than last year when the Senate’s $34.3 billion revenue projection was $1.1 billion more than the House’s projection.
After disagreement between the two chambers, the House’s $33.2 billion figure prevailed. Revenue estimates from last week for the current fiscal year stand at about $33.3 billion.
“Starting at the same number this year should definitely make it easier to reconcile the budget proposals at the end,” Kotowski said.