(Chicago, IL) — December 4, 2009. Appointed State Rep. Carol Sente (D-Vernon Hills) and three-term Buffalo Grove Village President Elliott Hartstein–who is challenging Sente in the upcoming Democratic primary–are clashing on the issue of an Illinois income tax increase.
According to their questionnaires submitted to the Chicago Tribune, Sente opposes an income tax hike and Hartstein supports it to balance the Illinois budget this year and fill an estimated $12 billion hole next.
In response to the Tribune question: “Do you support an income tax increase?” Sente, who served as the Vernon Hills Park District Vice President before her appointment to the Lake County seat vacated by Kathy Ryg, responded:
“I do not support increasing the state income tax. As a small business owner, I would treat the state like I treat my own business, making difficult but necessary cuts in spending, including taking a pay-cut personally to make ends meet during this difficult economic recovery.”
Hartstein staked out the opposite political ground on the tax question.
“The extent of the current deficit which needs to be closed cannot be fully addressed with cuts and reforms many of which may take some time to reflect significant savings. I could consider an increase ranging from 1 to 2 % above the current 3% provided the additional provisions … with some form of property tax relief like increases in the Homeowner and Senior exemptions.”
On the question of necessary cuts to the Illinois budget to help bring it back into balance, Sente and Hartstein also supplied different answers.
“I am hopeful that the state will recover its lost revenue as the economy recovers,” Sente wrote. “I do not support a tax increase, but will work with my constituents once we have a more definite indication of what the fiscal and revenue outlooks are for Fiscal Year 2011.”
Hartstein, an attorney, thinks that Illinois’ pension costs, which will account for nearly one-third of Illinois’ $12 billion budget deficit next year, must be brought under control.
“We need to reform our pension system to create long term sustainabilty which needs to be among the top priorities,” Hartstein wrote. “[We] … need to focus on a moratorium on new and increased benefits which we cannot afford. We similarly need to increase the amounts that are contributed by employees toward health insurance which is a big ticket item …”
Openly backing an income tax increase is a courageous, risky move on Hartstein’s part. Voters are in a surly, fearful mood. Whether they will be open simultaneously to the truth and a dose of harsh fiscal medicine to cure what ails the Illinois budget is an open question. But credit Hartstein for speaking it.
Nevertheless, watch for the Illinois income tax to take center stage in the primary election battle between Sente and Hartstein for Illinois 59th district seat. Betcha.
The primary is on February 2, 2010.