Quinn urges Dems to support tax increase

Governor Pat Quinn talks to the media at a news conference, Friday, Jan. 23, 2009, in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

March 17, 2010 4:39:13 AM PDT
Ill. Governor Pat Quinn has turned up the pressure on Democrats to pass a state income tax increase with or without the support of Republicans.

Quinn says without the tax education in Illinois will be in even more serious trouble next year. He made that case while visiting Morton College in Cicero Tuesday.

Gov. Pat Quinn came close to issuing a direct challenge to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan on the tax issue Tuesday. Quinn also was challenged by a conservative think tank that contends the state does not need to raise taxes to rescue public education.

With the state scheduled to lose nearly $1 billion in federal stimulus money for schools in July, the governor told an audience at Morton College that he is not bluffing when he predicts an even larger hole in the state education budget for fiscal 2011.

"For those who say we're bluffing, where's the billion dollars coming from? It's not gonna come from heaven. We've got to find ways to replace that revenue," said Quinn.

It was how for another day. The governor tried to sell his proposed increase in the state's income tax from 3 to 4 percent. Without the tax officials at Morton, a community college serving mostly low-income Latino students, say they could lose nearly 25 percent of the school's annual state grant.

"Our district's pretty hard hit with the economic times anyway because of who we are," said Phil Pena, Morton College administrator.

In Elgin, the U-46 School District, Illinois' second largest, announced it will lay off over 700 teachers because of delayed state payments this year and the possibility of less aid next year.

The conservative Illinois Policy Institute released a report Tuesday saying the governor should make bigger cuts elsewhere in the budget, and re-prioritize education spending.

"What we think is important is to put teachers in the classroom and not spend money on administration, administration or target groups of people," said John Tillman, Illinois Policy Institute.

Gov. Quinn wants state lawmakers to vote on his education tax proposal as soon as possible and to work during their scheduled Easter break if necessary. And unlike House Speaker Michael Madigan, Quinn said Tuesday he does not care if Republicans refuse to vote for the education tax.

"Whatever it takes. If it's all one party, I think that's unfortunate because I think it should be bi-partisan. We must act for the people, for the common good," said Quinn.

The governor is scheduled to spend the rest of the week in Springfield. He says he will lobby individual lawmakers of both parties to support his education tax. The governor wants a vote to put lawmakers--especially those in the House-- on the record. But Speaker Madigan controls what measures go to the floor.