ST. CHARLES – The state’s best hope for a budget clings to the possibility that Republicans and Democrats will agree on proposed budget cuts, a property tax freeze and some avenues for increasing revenue, state Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles, said during a visit with the Kane County Chronicle on Monday. The state has not had a budget for two years due to a stalemate between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.
“The pension debt is $120 billion. Our deficit is $7 billion a year,” McCon-
naughay said. “We have $20 billion in unpaid bills.”
McConnaughay said Republicans have put together two balanced budgets, while House Speaker Michael Madigan has introduced another stopgap budget.
The legislature will take a look at all proposals when it reconvenes April 25, she said.
“One of the proposals we have been talking about is expanding the income tax for a five-year period and using those additional revenues for the purpose of paying down our debt,” McConnaughay said. “And have those revenues sunset after five years. And during that same period of time, providing property tax relief, a property tax freeze for five years.”
Senate Republicans have offered balanced budget proposals that reflect cuts and a sales tax increase to broaden the revenue base, paired with a property tax freeze across the board, she said.
“We think it’s important we address the problem with high property taxes,” McConnaughay said. “I think there is reason to be optimistic.”
Many units of local government “are sitting on healthy cash balances” while still increasing their levies year after year, “taxing people out of their homes,” she said.
“We need to have a better understanding of our local government finances and how local government functions to be sure people are getting the kind of services they want, and getting that in an affordable fashion,” McConnaughay said.
Cost-saving efforts would come through pension reform – which Democrats, Republicans and the governor agree on – changing health care plans and “deep cutting into agency budgets in order to find efficiency,” she said.
“We want people to stay in Illinois. We want businesses to stay in Illinois. We have to be able to demonstrate that we know how to be fiscally responsible and be consistent,” McConnaughay said.
The state’s lack of budget and high property taxes keeps businesses from locating in Illinois, McConnaughay said.
“We have the highest debt and the worst credit rating,” McConnaughay said. “The way to get more revenue is by adopting pro-business policies that grow our economy.”