SPRINGFIELD | Even before Gov. Pat Quinn outlined his budget blueprint Wednesday, his fellow Democrats were looking at other options to fill a gap left by the looming rollback of the state's temporary income tax increase.
In a meeting held an hour before Quinn unveiled his plan, House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, convened a closed-door meeting of Democrats in the House to pitch his plan for higher taxes on millionaires.
It was a signal that Quinn's budget proposal could face an uphill climb among rank-and-file lawmakers.
Under Madigan's plan, an estimated 13,675 Illinoisans who make more than $1 million per year would pay another 3 percent in taxes on that income.
The additional $1 billion in revenue would go to finance public schools.
Election-wary lawmakers said that could be a more politically palatable option than going along with Quinn's plan to keep the income tax rate at 5 percent rather than allow it to roll back to 3.75 percent in January.
"That's going to be a difficult issue. That's a long way from happening right now," state Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, said of Quinn's proposal.
Republicans surveyed after the speech were unanimous in their opposition to the governor's plan, saying his threats of a doomsday without more tax dollars is nothing new.
They said Quinn's plan to offer homeowners $500 in property tax relief was a gimmick.
"This guy just doesn't get it. He's delusional. We've lost jobs and continue to lose jobs. Taxes kill jobs," said state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington. "To me its all about jobs. To him it's all about spending and taxes and that's not working to help Illinois families."
"Quinn is saying, 'Trust me and send me more of your money and I'll give some of it back to you,'" said state Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington. "I think it's unacceptable."
State Reps. Dan Brady, of Bloomington, and Keith Sommer, of Morton, agreed, saying Quinn has had enough time to fix the state's problems.
"The original intent was to pay our bills, pay our providers," Dan Brady said. "The simple platform of what it was supposed to do hasn't worked."
State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, blasted the governor.
“In my hometown of Decatur, unemployment is up more than 30 percent on Quinn’s watch and thousands of people are out of work,” Mitchell said. “Our focus should be on creating good-paying jobs for working-class Illinoisans who want a helping hand, not a handout. We need to fundamentally change our jobs and tax policies in Springfield if we’re going to turn things around and get Illinois working again.”
State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said he'd fight an attempt to extend the tax hike.
"If you want to help working families, let this thing sunset," Rose said. "He didn't do what he said he would do the first time. I don't know why anyone would believe him the second time."
State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said Quinn is inflating the funding problems in order to scare people into supporting his plan.
"This governor needs more money because he and the Democrats want to spend more money," Righter said.
State Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Charleston, agreed, saying lawmakers just need to make tougher choices when it comes to reducing costs.
"Even though we raised taxes four years ago, we're not in better shape. In reality, we're in worse shape," Halbrook said.
Added state Rep. Adam Brown, R-Champaign, “I think it’s important that we keep as much money as possible in the pocket of those folks who work day in and day out in Illinois, so keeping taxes low is what I strive for."