Democrats in the Illinois Senate, frustrated with the state’s 22-month budget impasse, moved Wednesday to pass much of a multi-piece tax and spending plan that their Republican counterparts said wasn’t quite ready.
A $36.5 billion spending plan passed out of the chamber Thursday and heads to the House. The package includes measures that would allow slot machines at Arlington Park and casinos in Lake County and Rockford. It would allow the state to borrow money to pay down a nearly $14 billion backlog of unpaid bills and reform the state’s outdated school funding system.
Other pieces of what had been dubbed a “grand bargain” compromise — including a property tax freeze, a measure that would increase the state’s income tax to 4.95 percent from its current 3.75 percent rate, and the power to implement the budget alongside a series of spending cuts — did not advance.
Democrats described the effort as major progress under a Capitol dome that has been marked mainly by stagnation due to partisan infighting. The votes followed nearly six months of negotiations on a budget compromise plan crafted by leaders of the Senate.
“If you think about it, a child that was born the last day that the state had a budget would now be a toddler that’s walking and talking,” said state Sen. Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat.