Quinn seeks income tax hike for schools

March 11, 2010 4:35:04 AM PST
Ill. Governor Pat Quinn called for a 33-percent income tax increase to deal with what he calls a "crisis of epic proportions" during his budget address Wednesday.The state is dealing with a $13 billion deficit, the largest in Illinois history.

The governor's plan includes cutting expenses by $2 billion, borrowing $4,7 billion to pay overdue bills and letting about $6.3 billion in bills go unpaid until the next fiscal year. But it's the call for the income tax increase that's getting much of the attention.

When Quinn arrived at the House chamber, legislative leaders of his own party did not know of his plan to generate $3 billion for public education by raising the state income tax from 3 to 4 percent.

"Education represents the best possible investment we could ever make," said Quinn.

Without the tax the governor said over $1 billion in education spending cuts would cause 17,000 teachers to be laid off and larger class sizes everywhere in the state.

"It's clearly now focused on education and avoiding draconian cuts to education," said State Sen. John Cullerton, (D) Senate president.

But Republican leaders said the governor was using inflated education cuts to cover his otherwise unpopular push for a tax increase.

"To put 17 percent of the cuts on education is clearly an effort to build pressure for a tax increase," said State Sen. Christine Radogno, (R) Senate minority leader.

In Chicago, staff members at the Children's Advocacy Center watched the governor's speech. They were concerned how cuts in the human services budget will affect the abused children treated there.

"It's very difficult for human service agencies funded by the state to live in this limbo state," said Char Rivette, Chicago Children's Advocacy Center.

While some lawmakers praised Quinn's speech for being direct, others complained the governor left too many questions unanswered.

"Is this one percent surcharge going to stay with education? Is it going to perpetually stay with education? Can it be diverted to something else?" said State Sen. James Meeks, (D) Chicago.

The governor will hear questions about his tax increase for education beginning Thursday. He will make appearances at public schools in Springfield and later in Chicago.