SPRINGFIELD | Illinois is set to collect $369 million more in tax revenue this year, state lawmakers learned Tuesday.
In a report to lawmakers, analysts at the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability credited the increase to a post-recession surge in car sales and a better-than-anticipated start to income tax collections.
“Things, in balance, appear to be doing well,” revenue manager Jim Muschinske said.
Deciding what to do with the extra cash, however, has not been determined.
Some want to pay down a stack of unpaid bills totaling an estimated $7.3 billion. Others — including Gov. Pat Quinn — want to use a portion of it to pay back wages owed to about 25,000 state employees.
Gathered for the start of the second week of the annual fall veto session, members of a House panel unanimously approved a proposal to give the Illinois State Police an extra $33 million to help officials prepare for the advent of allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons.
The lack of money in the legislation to pay the back wages was a sore point with state Rep. David Reis, R-Willow Hill.
“My biggest frustration is what’s not in the bill,” Reis said. “We’ve got to face reality.”
State Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, suggested the House could take up the issue of the back wages later in the year or when lawmakers reconvene for the start of the spring session in January.
“This is what we have right now,” Arroyo said.
All told, Quinn has requested an extra $221 million in additional spending, including $18 million to train a new class of cadets for the state police, which has been hit by a wave of retirements.
That money was not included in the legislation pending in the House.
“I think its time we step up ... and give the state police the assistance they need,” argued state Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon.
Muschinske said lawmakers should proceed with caution because of uncertainty in the remaining eight months of the state’s fiscal year. He said a bump in tax revenue last April is unlikely to happen again next year.
And, he said, federal dollars may not be as strong as they were last year.
“I don’t want anybody to think everything is all kitties and puppies,” Muschinske told lawmakers.