Illinois politicians talk taxes at parade

March 14, 2009 9:08:14 PM PDT
Chicago is honoring its Irish heritage this weekend with two parades, and no Chicago parade is complete without politicians. The topics of corned beef and cabbage were replaced by talk of taxes and turmoil from politicians at Saturday's St. Patrick's Day Parade. The parade was also where the public got the chance to see a politician who has been keeping a low profile these days.

It had to be awkward. Sen. Roland Burris was marching Saturday with many of the same elected officials who have called on him to resign.

"I'm the U.S. senator from the great state of Illinois, and I'm here representing the people of Illinois today," Burris said.

While the bagpipers played and the crowds cheered, the politicians had taxes on their minds, more specifically, Gov. Pat Quinn's expected proposal to raise the state income tax by as much as 50 percent.

"Our previous governor did not pay the bills. He walked away from that," Quinn.

Governor Quinn and many of his colleagues put the blame squarely at former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's door, telling the public, if they're unhappy about an income tax increase, blame the state's previous governor.

"To think, hospitals in this city and state that haven't been paid in six to eight months. They're laying off nurses because the state is at deadbeat status. It's a desperate situation, and there aren't any easy answers," said Sen. Dick Durbin.

"Our state owes $11 billion in debts. The previous governor didn't pay them. I think its responsible to pay debts to hospitals and employers that are owed money by the state of Illinois," Quinn said.

State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who plans on running for Senate, would not say Saturday whether he supports an income tax increase.

Chicago's Mayor Daley was also non-committal.

"I know Pat Quinn is very interested in infrastructure and putting people back to work. So, you have to look at all the details," Daley said.

Sen. Roland Burris broke his 28-day boycott of the media Saturday and spent one minute and 14 seconds chatting with reporters. Among the questions asked: Whether he thinks an increase in the state income tax is necessary?

"No?I'm really dealing with the issues of the country. That's up to Illinois," Burris said.

ABC7 Chicago contacted Senator Burris' spokesperson Saturday afternoon to find out if the senator truly doesn't believe an issue like raising the state income tax is the business of the senator of Illinois. The spokesman only said he would not second guess his boss.