"I want to make it clear that I am absolutely against making the Democrats' income tax hike permanent," State Senator Kyle McCarter (R-Vandalia) told Illinois Review Tuesday. "I am also opposed to any tax hike extensions."
McCarter's comments followed statements from Republican leadership that led to confusion about where the Senate Republican caucus stood on the topic. Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno recently said in a radio interview that Republicans may be open to a gradual rollback of the income tax hike.
Last week, Senate President John Cullerton said that if the state's tax rates were rolled back to 2011 levels, the resulting revenue dip and increased budget obligations would present the General Assembly with a nearly $3 Billion budget deficit for FY 2015.
"That's exactly what the Republican Senate caucus predicted three years ago when we offered the Reality Check budget proposal," McCarter said. "We predicted that if they didn't make major cuts, the state budget would be in even worse condition when the tax hike ended. The Democrats don't want to be responsible for this mess."
McCarter told IR he is especially sensitive to the Democrats saying the Republicans only complain and never offer ideas. "That's what we did with the Reality Check Budget, we gave ideas about what could be done to not only not go into more debt, but to end up with a surplus."
Why then aren't the Republicans - with a super-minority - reminding the public of their proposal and the efforts that were made years ago to correct Illinois budget crisis?
"The budget we proposed had some pretty tough cuts, and some Republicans are terrified of talking about budget cuts," McCarter told Illinois Review. "The proposed budget cuts may have been harsh, but we could always negotiate starting from there."
Indeed, Democrats passed the 67 percent income tax hike during the lame duck session without a vote from the Republican side of the aisle. Thus removing the Democrats' ability to claim the tax increase was a bi-partisan effort.
"When that year's budget was finally passed, it was put through in pieces," McCarter said. "Three of those pieces were budget bills that included parts of the GOP budget proposal, and I voted for those particular bills. Other than that, Republicans have remained consistenly opposed to the Democrats' budget proposals."
The Democrats ignored the Republicans' ideas, and headed in a direction of more spending and bigger government. Now the Democrats say that without making the tax hike permanent, Illinois will fall behind more and more. Even with the 67 percent state income tax increase, the state has been unable to get its Medicaid bills paid up to date. That's before the state income tax revenue returns to its promised 2011 levels.
"Making the income tax hike permanent is not the answer for the state's budget crisis," McCarter said. "No Republican should leave the door open for such discussion."
Illinois Review spoke directly with Senator Chris Radogno about the Republican budget proposal in a two-part audio interview in 2011, in which she outlined $6.4 billion in budget cuts that could have set Illinois on a different budget path. (Part 1, Part 2 )
The GOP Caucus' Reality Budget was not too far off in its prediction: