Clock ticking for tax hike in lame-duck session

January 10, 2011 8:42:26 PM PST
There is just a day and a half left for the current session of the Illinois General Assembly.

Many members are lame ducks, but powerful ones nonetheless who are racing to decide everything from how high to hike your taxes to whether there will be new casinos in the city and suburbs.

As kids, we were taught how the legislative process works with a song. "I'm just a bill, I'm only a bill," the song goes. "It's a long, long wait while I sit in committee, but I know I'll be a law someday."

But in Illinois the reality is far different. Lawmakers are considering the highest income tax hike in state history. Casinos are being looked at for the north and south suburbs, plus one in the city. All of it is expected to be decided before Wednesday at noon.

"The bill is going to appear before them minutes before it's called for a vote and no one is going have a chance to read it," said David Morrison, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. "And that's absolutely intentional."

Without time for debate, dissent is kept to a minimum. Take the tax hike. A person with a net income of $50,000 a year would see their state tax bill jump more than $1,100. Someone with a $150,000 a year income can expect to pay an extra $3,375. It probably would not be popular.

"We want to live up to the high ideals of Abraham Lincoln," said Gov. Pat Quinn on January 29, 2009.

Quinn made that statement on the day he replaced Rod Blagojevich. These days, though, the normally chatty chief executive has refused to talk specifics about the tax hike.

"First of all, it's a rotten thing to do to the people, that my fellow Democrats in Illinois want to do," said former Governor Rod Blagojevich on CNBC.

"I think the state of Illinois has a long history of these last minute boondoggle things pushed through and it's really just a mess," said Rose McBride, LaGrange resident.

"If they asked us our opinion, no one would let them do anything," said Lilian Nieto, Aurora resident.

Springfield is giving new meaning to 'fast-track' legislation.

An aide to the governor tells ABC7 Quinn has not changed his position on openness and transparency. And his decision to avoid reporters' questions in recent days is a reflection of his desire to govern more and talk less.