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What is the “Right” Choice for Illinois’ Budget Woes?

PHOTO: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is calling on lawmakers to make the state’s temporary income tax increase permanent. Photo courtesy Governor's office.
PHOTO: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is calling on lawmakers to make the state’s temporary income tax increase permanent. Photo courtesy Governor's office.
March 27, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – In his state budget address Wednesday, Gov. Pat Quinn said keeping the tax hike is a hard choice – and some question if it is the right choice.

The governor wants to make Illinois' temporary income tax rate increases of 2011 permanent, which he said would stabilize the budget for the long term.

Ralph Martire, executive director, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, said it was a bold move.

"Revenue is really important at this juncture and people that try to claim you could let this tax increase expire and still fund schools or social services are simply not telling you the truth," he pointed out.

But Ben VanMetre, senior budget and tax policy analyst at the Illinois Policy Institute, said continuing to raise taxes isn't the answer to the state's budget problems.

"Gov. Quinn's budget pushes spending up to $38 billion next year,” he pointed out. “I think that's disrespectful. He's breaking his promise to taxpayers to let the tax hike sunset. "

The rates that had been raised from 3 percent to 5 percent are scheduled to drop to 3.75 percent in January.

Quinn said without action to stabilize revenue, extreme cuts would need to be made to education and critical public services.

While VanMetre said leaders need to discuss better ways to reform spending and address the state's billions in unpaid bills, Martire stressed taxes are what need to be reformed.

He said the governor should support a proposed constitutional amendment that would change the Illinois income tax from a flat tax to a more fair, federal-style progressive tax system.

"One that has lower rates for lower levels of income and higher rates for higher levels of income like the federal government income tax does,” he explained. “But we can't do that with our current Illinois constitution. "

In his address, Quinn also called for increases in the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income families, and proposed that those who pay property taxes get a $500 refund.


Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL