“Today, Republicans and Democrats stood together to enact a bipartisan balanced budget and end a destructive 736-day impasse,” said Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, the governor’s political nemesis.
Republican state Rep. Steve Andersson of Geneva, who voted for the tax hike on Sunday, framed up the debate as a matter of pulling state government back from the brink.
“I believe it’s a historic day because it’s a day where we decide the fate of our state,” he said. “Do we want to save it? Or do we want to let it go into meltdown?”
Republican Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills, reiterated his opposition to the income tax hike.
“What we do know for sure is that this budget is going to hurt people,” he said. “We’ve all heard from our constituents. They’re wondering how they’re going to pay their high property taxes. They’re wondering how they’re going to pay their living expenses because we’re raising their income tax rate by 32 percent. And what do we get? Nothing.”
Two other votes were quickly held to override Rauner vetoes of budget bills. In both cases, lawmakers overrode the governor.
Democratic Speaker Michael Madigan needed 71 votes to approve the overrides. The tax hike was approved with 72 votes, so the absence of even a few lawmakers who previously voted for the plan could upend an override attempt. On Sunday, 57 Democrats joined 15 Republicans in voting for the tax increase.
On Thursday, there were some slight changes. One lawmaker who previously voted for the income tax hike on Sunday, Republican Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer of Downstate Jacksonville, voted against the override. Democratic Rep. Sue Scherer of Decatur had voted against the tax hike on Sunday but voted in favor of the override Thursday. In addition, Rep. Robert Pritchard of Hinckely voted for the tax hike Sunday but was absent Thursday.
The question of whether there would be enough lawmakers on hand to hold a vote was quickly answered. An attendance roll call showed 112 lawmakers present. Republicans listed five excused absences, including one lawmaker who voted for the tax hike.
In recent days, low attendance in the House had made it impossible for lawmakers to complete any business at all. If an override had failed, the governor would have blocked an income tax hike for now, and the state’s budget impasse would have continued.
Rep. Reggie Phillips, a Republican from Charleston, said he was “tortured by” the decision whether to override Rauner. Phillips’ district includes Eastern Illinois University, which was hit hard during the impasse and reduced higher education funding.
“If I decide to press my button to override the governor, it doesn’t make me any less of a conservative Republican than the rest of the people standing here,” he said. “It makes a person decide he has to vote for his district. He has to think about all the people in his district to the best of his ability.”
The budget plan would spend more than $36 billion on primary and secondary education, colleges and universities, social services, medical care for the poor and other government functions, with nearly $5 billion in new taxes to help pay for it. The personal income tax rate would rise from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent. The corporate tax rate would go from 5.25 percent to 7 percent. The plan also would have the state pay down about half of the nearly $15 billion pile of unpaid bills through a combination of borrowing and using cash from other state accounts.
On Wednesday, Rauner said his team was “doing everything that we can do to push to ensure my veto is not overridden,” though he didn’t say what specifically he was doing in the day before a potential vote.
The governor also compared the income tax increase to a “two-by-four smacked across the forehead.”
Session was supposed to begin at 1:30 p.m., but the Capitol was on lockdown, and a hazardous materials crew went into the reception area of the governor’s office. Springfield’s fire chief said a woman allegedly threw a powdery substance in the governor’s office. The Illinois Secretary of State’s office later said that no hazardous materials found.
A few minutes before the House’s scheduled start time, two security guards walked a woman with her arms handcuffed behind her back through a hallway in back of the House chamber. Dave Druker, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, which oversees Capitol security, said one person was taken into custody Thursday.
The unfolding security situation followed a sometimes fierce backlash against the Republican lawmakers who joined Democrats in voting for the tax hike. Outside groups have blanketed social media with political attacks, and some Facebook commenters used violent language to react. Some lawmakers have had their personal phone numbers posted online, resulting in hundreds of angry calls from those opposed to the tax increase.
An anti-tax increase message was posted Thursday from the Twitter account of freshman Republican Rep. Allen Skillicorn of East Dundee: “What is the bigger threat to #IL? The suspicious white powder at the Capitol or Madigan’s #taxhikes and #JunkBudget?”
That prompted a Twitter response from Democratic Rep. Christian Mitchell of Chicago: “Really, Allen?”
Republican Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, whose district includes Springfield, said Wednesday that while much focus has been put on the tax portion of the package, the spending side included real cuts and across-the-board reductions that Republicans have long pushed for. She said she plans to vote for the override.
“I will never be able to convince anybody to say to me, ‘Wow, Sara, you’ve really convinced me. I am happy to give the state more money,'” Wojcicki Jimenez said Wednesday. “Happy will never be the emotion. I hope that the emotion becomes, the more you talk about it is understanding of what the math is and what the dynamics of the legislature is.”