Ill. lawmakers move closer to income-tax increase

January 5, 2011 8:14:45 PM PST
Lawmakers in Springfield are moving closer to a deal on a tax increase.

Ill. Senate Pres. John Cullerton confirmed the possibility of an 82-percent income tax increase Wednesday.

"There's so many different variables. I don't know whether it is permanent, temporary, whether it's borrowing, that's what we have to talk about," said Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, adding that the 82-percent figure is on the table.

Last year, the Senate passed a bill to raise the state's flat tax from 3 to 5-percent. The House could vote on that bill, or amend it to raise the income tax to as much as 5.5-percent.

That amount, supporters say, could resolve the state's estimated $15 billion deficit.

"I'm interested in going beyond 2-percent. I want there to be enough money for us to do something with, and not be in this dilemma that we're in now," said Rep. Constance Howard, D-Chicago.

"We need more revenues. They will just spend it on new programs. You don't give a cocaine addict more drugs," said Kristina Rasmussen with the Illinois Policy Institute.

House Speaker Michael Madigan will not comment on the possible income tax increase. Just as silent is Governor-elect Pat Quinn who during the fall campaign said he wanted to raise the tax rate from 3 to only 4-percent. Proponents say the current lame-duck session is a perfect time to raise as much revenue as possible.

"I think a golden political opportunity exists right now with some lame ducks not coming back who can vote for a tax increase and not worry about their political futures," said Ralph Martire with the Center for Budget and Tax Accountability.

But outgoing Rep. Elizabeth Coulson, R-Glenview, Ill., will not budge.

"I am not going to all of a sudden change my mind where my district comes from and say, 'take the money and run with it,'" Coulson said.