Quinn: Tax increase can't be ruled out

February 5, 2009 3:30:55 PM PST
One week after taking office, Governor Pat Quinn says he cannot rule out an increase in the state's income tax. The governor inherited a $9 billion dollar budget deficit and says all options will be considered to fix it.

This may have been one of the shortest political honeymoons, certainly for any governor in recent history.

On the seventh day after he was sworn in, Pat Quinn is on the tax increase hot seat.

Pat Quinn's appearance at the UIC College of Dentistry was scheduled weeks ago, long before he became governor. But as soon as the event to promote dental health for needy children had ended the media mob drilled Quinn on the state's estimated $9 billion deficit and the possibility of an income tax increase to resolve it.

"I don't think we should rule anything out until we really get to the bottom of all the money that is owed to the various businesses and hospitals across Illinois," said Gov. Quinn.

Of the 43 states with a personal income tax, Illinois' flat 3 percent rate is the lowest. Last year, the state income tax generated just under $12 billion and tax proponents say each percentage point of increase would put another $4 billion into state coffers.

"Pat Quinn wants to raise the income tax by 67 percent," said Jim Tobin, National Taxpayers United.

Long-time, anti-tax activist Tobin says what the governor and lawmakers really want is a 5 percent rate.

"Instead of stealing 3 percent of our income, they want to steal 5 percent of our income for the state income tax. That's a 67 percent income tax increase. So, in other words, if you paid $1,000 last year, you would pay $1,670 next year," said Tobin.

Meanwhile, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and State Senate President John Cullerton reportedly support an 8 cents a gallon increase in the gasoline tax to support a statewide construction program. Quinn confirmed Thursday that proposal also is under consideration.

"We've got to make sure we take good care of our roads and bridges. We don't want them collapsing into any rivers. So I'm going to look very carefully at that," said Quinn.

Ideally, Governor Quinn wants the legislative leaders in both parties to agree with and share the responsibility for any decision to raise taxes. He does not want to carry that political burden if he decides to run for a full term in 2010. The conventional wisdom is any governor who presides over a tax increase has a tough time at the polls.


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