SPRINGFIELD — After weeks of listening to predictions of doom and gloom from top state officials, Democrats in the Illinois House are poised to roll out a spending plan that relies on an extension of the temporary income tax.
Rather than imposing tough cuts on schools, prisons, universities and social services, the spending plan would mirror a budget proposed by Gov. Pat Quinn that adds more cash for schools, universities and social service programs, said state Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat who chairs a House appropriations committee.
The majority party could schedule a vote on the budget blueprint as early as Thursday, with an eye on asking lawmakers to extend the temporary income tax at a later date.
Details of the plan were still being developed Tuesday. But some versions showed money earmarked to reopen recently shuttered youth prisons in Murphysboro and Joliet. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources would get $258 million, which is $8 million higher than it would receive if the tax is allowed to sunset.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said Republicans have been largely locked out of the talks because the GOP opposes making the 2011 tax increase permanent.
"We'll do what we can to stop them from doing it," Durkin said Tuesday.
It remains unclear how the budget will be balanced if the tax increase rolls back as planned from its current 5 percent to 3.75 percent on Jan. 1. The rollback would result in a projected loss of $1.6 billion in revenue at a time when Democrats say costs for a variety of programs are on the rise.
Democrats who control the Senate say they have enough votes to extend the tax increase, but questions remain in the House.
State Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, said leaders are polling Democratic members to try to gauge who supports an extension.
"We'll try to put something together to get to the 60 votes needed," Mautino said.
Said Durkin, "They are doing it backwards, upside down and every other method of misdirection."
Quinn and his agency chiefs have spent much of the spring outlining a series of dire budget predictions if the tax increase isn't extended, including the release of thousands of prison inmates, the closure of juvenile detention facilities and funding cuts for schools.
School students from Streator were in Springfield Tuesday lobbying for an increase in spending on education.
The Streator elementary district would see a $1.9 million drop in state aid under Quinn's doomsday budget scenario at a time when the district is seeing a corresponding drop in local property tax revenue because of a decline in assessed value.
Mautino said the budget favored by the House Democrats would give schools a slight increase in funding in the fiscal year beginning July 1.