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Illinois House committee passes $3.8B spending bill, but Chicago property tax plan criticized


SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — An Illinois House committee on Thursday passed a plan that would finance at least some of the state services not being paid for during the state budget stalemate — emergency food assistance, mental health and other social services as well as prizes for big lottery winners. But Gov. has said he'll veto the bill.

But Chicago Mayor 's plan to raise property taxes to pay for underfunded police and firefighter pensions received a chilly reception from lawmakers asked to consider a property tax exemption that would be part of it.

The funding bill for human services was passed by the House Executive Committee on a 7-0 vote and sends the $3.8 billion spending plan to the full House. The money includes $1 billion from the state lottery fund to pay out winners who currently aren't getting paid because of the budget stalemate.

Federal court orders require billions of dollars to be paid for service programs, but Rauner has nonetheless promised the veto as he and the Democratic lawmakers who control the General Assembly continue to disagree over how to pay for a state budget that was due July 1.

It also isn't clear when the House will take up the funding bill. The House met weekly over the summer during what Speaker Michael Madigan has said would be a "continuous session" while the budget impasses lasted. But the next House sessions are now set for Oct. 20 and Nov. 10.

Rep. Greg Harris, one of the bill's sponsors, told committee members Thursday that passing the bill was more fiscally responsible than allowing state agencies to rack up bills for services they're not currently able to pay.

"We have providers who are doing work that can't even get paid now. For a lot of people this is very real in their lives today," the Chicago Democrat said.

But some lawmakers questioned the wisdom of the bill before it was approved.

"I think it's unfair to pass an appropriations bill that doesn't have the revenue with it," added Rep. Michael Tryon, a Republican from Crystal Lake. "I think it's disingenuous to tell our providers that 'Everything's going to be OK, we passed an appropriations bill.'"

Emanuel's plan to shore up Chicago's finances through a $543 million increase in property taxes over four years would require state approval for an exemption the mayor wants to prevent the increase from affecting anyone whose home is worth $250,000 or less.

No legislation has been introduced to provide that exemption, but Deputy Mayor Steven Koch pitched the ideas to the House Revenue and Finance Committee.

"The lion's share of the burden would be borne by our thriving central business district," Koch said, estimating that a quarter of the money raised would come from businesses in the Chicago Loop and surrounding areas.

But business groups said adding to the tax burden already carried by businesses might lead some to decide against adding staff, expanding or even being located in Chicago at all.

"Businesses already pay their fair share," said Michael Reever, vice president of government relations for the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. "We cannot stand for a greater shift of the property tax burden onto commercial and industrial property."

Sophia Tareen and Sara Burnett of The Associated Press contributed from Chicago.

This version of the story corrects the party affiliation of Rep. Michael Tryon to Republican.

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