Quinn in Chicago to tout budget plan

March 11, 2010 8:35:54 PM PST
One day after delivering a sobering message about fixing the state's budget problems, Governor Pat Quinn was in Chicago pushing his plan to raise taxes.

If there was any criticism of Governor Quinn's speech it was that he did not provide many details, especially details concerning his proposed 1 percentage point increase in the state's income tax to support public education.

On the first day trying to sell the education tax, the governor chose the Lowell Elementary School, an older, predominantly Latino and African-American school on Chicago's West Side.

"These boys and girls have great talent. They're gonna make a difference in life. Somebody in here might be the governor of Illinois someday, and I don't want any disruption in their education," said Quinn.

In his budget speech Wednesday in Springfield, the governor told lawmakers that $3 billion to be generated by raising the income tax from 3 to 4 percent would be used first to restore $1.2 billion in planned cuts to public education. He said all the money left over -- about $1.8 billion -- would be used to pay the debt the state currently owes individual districts and state universities.

"We've got to pay those bills, and I think this is the best way to do it," Quinn said.

The governor said, after the backlogged bills are paid, in subsequent years all the revenue generated by the tax surcharge would go to public education.

Mayor Daley, who said he had not seen details of the governor's plan, indicated that voters might support a tax that had a specific purpose.

"You have to look at things so that the taxpayers really believe that their money is being used effeminately and wisely on behalf of many programs. And that's what you have to show," Daley said.

Quinn also responded to Republican charges that he manipulated his budget plan to create the $1.2 billion hole in education funding as a way to get the tax increase he has backed for more than a year. The governor said education had to be cut like every other state program.

"Cuts are everywhere. I said that right from the beginning of the speech yesterday. We've made some serious cuts across the board in state government, and that includes education," said Quinn.

There is no word when the governor might have his education tax idea take the form of a bill in either chamber of the General Assembly.

Senate President John Cullerton reacted favorably to the plan. House Speaker Michael Madigan is withholding judgment.

House Republicans are the key. Speaker Madigan has insisted that he will not run a tax increase unless there are some Republicans in support of it.