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IL Coalition: Be Responsible and Raise Income Taxes

October 12, 2009

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - When the fall veto session begins this week, legislative leaders will be asked to meet with members of "The Responsible Budget Coalition." The new organization is made up of more than 150 groups that represent unions, educators, and social service providers, who want higher income taxes because they say state services have been under-funded for years.

One of those groups is Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, whose director of public policy and advocacy, Daniel Schwick, says the state has been delaying payments, cutting programs, and borrowing money for too long.

"Do we want lawmakers to be irresponsible, or do we want them to responsible and have all of us share the support for the services that all of us benefit from?"

After all says Schwick, taxes pay for services for everyone.

"That means things like traffic and police. The court system benefits the whole society, not just the people at the lowest rungs of the economic ladder."

Schwick says cutting saves money in the short term, but investing in programs such as education for children is much wiser.

"In early childhood education, every dollar invested saves seven or eight dollars down the road."

That's seven or eight dollars, says Schwick, that won't have to be spent on things like remedial education or prisons.

Some state lawmakers have been saying that what would amount to a 50 percent increase in the state income tax is not palatable. But Schwick says Illinois income tax rates would still be a bargain.

"Another way of looking at it is that it's going from three percent, I think maybe the lowest income tax rate in the country, going up two percentage points, which is still among the lowest."

The coalition is calling for about a two percent increase in the income tax rate, with protection for lower and moderate-income residents in the form of a higher personal exemption and an expanded earned income tax credit.

Opponents say that rather than raising the income tax the state needs to look for more places to cut spending.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL