As the budget impasse drags on, a group of African-American lawmakers says their communities want a discussion on raising revenue to pay for services, not on the governor's agenda.
Members of the Legislative Black Caucus say the lack of a budget is having a big impact on African-Americans around the state, leaving services from senior care to after-school programs unfunded.
At the same time, the Illinois Republican Party is attacking House Speaker Michael Madigan for suggesting raising the income tax rate back to the previous level of 5 percent is a "good place to begin." State Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) feels revenue has to be the focus of budget discussions, and argues both parties have already publicly admitted a tax hike will be needed.
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"Everyone just spins it a different way," Hutchinson said. "It is universally agreed that we cannot continue operating without additional revenue. So the question is this: how much collateral damage are we willing to take before we do what is everyone knows we need to do?"
Legislative leaders have said budget talks are still centering on Gov. Bruce Rauner's so-called "turnaround agenda," not about much money will be available in a budget for the remaining months of the fiscal year. Hutchinson would like that dynamic to change.
"There's only a couple of ways that we can fix this, and they don't have anything to do with whether or not we have workers' compensation reform, or whether or not we kill unions, or whether or not we do any of those other, admittedly, pro-business types of things that the governor is holding out for," Hutchinson said.
Several members of the caucus expressed an urgent need for the impasse to be settled, not just because of social service groups which may never recover from going months without funding, but because it's nearly time to start debating a budget for the next fiscal year.
"February 17, the governor's going to be talking about FY17, and we haven't resolved what we're doing in this fiscal year," said State Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago).