Governor calls to make tax hike permanent

Scott Reeder

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday called for making permanent the temporary 67 percent income tax hike he signed into law in 2011.

Quinn sought a spoonful of sugar to help that bitter pill go down by calling for doubling the income tax credit for lower income workers and giving $500 tax credits to every homeowner.

While the income tax hike he signed three years ago was pitched on the basis that it would help the state pay down its backlog of unpaid bills, Quinn called for making it permanent to offer more funding for education.

In addition to expanding tax breaks for homeowners, the governor called for:

· Offering tax breaks to businesses that offer job training.

· Creating caps on how much the state can spend as a means of ensuring fiscal discipline.

· Building up a cash reserve to protect state programs in the event of an economic downturn.

State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, said he was impressed with the governor’s remarks.

“Property tax relief is important in my district. The state paying its bills is important to people in my district. The fiscal solvency of the state is important to people in my district. And I think the governor’s message will resonate well with the people my district.”

But Republicans greeted the proposal with a jaundiced eye, saying that the governor was breaking a promise in trying to make the tax hike permanent.

“There was nothing in that speech that addresses the greatest human tragedy facing Illinois – 8.7 percent unemployment,” said House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs. “What I heard was a speech that called for taxing more and spending more. And does nothing to address our state’s staggering unemployment problem.”

But Quinn said education would be devastated if income tax rates are allowed to drop.

Without the higher tax rate, Quinn said, the state faces “extreme cuts,” which he added will “starve our schools.”

But Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno pooh-poohed the governor’s statement.

“He tried to use a lot of scare tactics to justify a tax increase,” she said.

Durkin added that Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, is pushing a progressive income tax. Quinn is calling for making the temporary income tax hike permanent and House Speaker Michael Madigan has called for raising taxes on those earning more than $1 million.

“I’ve heard three major tax increases this week,” he said. “Not one of them puts people back to work. All that it does is make people throughout the state of Illinois cringe and rethink whether this a good place to raise their family and do business.”

State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, was more blunt.

“They say they need more money to fund K-12 education,” he said. “So far they have received $26 billion in new revenues (from the temporary tax increase) and did not pay off the bills for K-12 like they said they would, they did not increase spending on K-12 like they said they would. And now, they are saying we didn’t do what we said we would do, but we would like more money anyway. Now they are saying: trust us this time. People aren’t stupid.”

---Brady Cremeens and Jes Greene contributed to this report