(Springfield, IL) — March 11, 2010. The state faces a staggering $13 billion deficit and Governor Pat Quinn’s budget plan calls for $2 billion in cuts, $4 billion in short-term borrowing and a 33 percent increase in the state income tax rate to cover state costs.
Illinois’ current income tax rate stands at a flat 3 percent, and Quinn’s proposal to increase the rate to 4 percent would garner revenue to help alleviate an anticipated $1.3 billion in education cuts.
Last year, Quinn called for a 50 percent income tax increase but failed to get the legislature’s endorsement.
Western Illinois lawmakers are split on whether the tax increase proposal is good public policy and if it will really benefit public schools.
State Rep. Jim Sacia (R-Pecatonica) said he doubts Quinn’s budget will pass but even if it did, Sacia said the additional revenue would not fully meet the state’s education needs.
The state’s finances are in horrible condition and having a tax increase that is less than needed doesn’t make sense, Sacia said.
“If a 50 percent tax increase would create $3.5 billion,” Sacia said, “This [one percent] is going to fall significantly short of education needs and the state is still in an unbelievable crisis.”
Western Illinois State Senator John Sullivan (D-Rushville) said he thinks state lawmakers will pass the governor’s proposed tax increase because the alternative is deep cuts to education.
However, he said it will be a difficult task.
“By [Quinn] tying the additional revenue and the tax increase, that money is going to go to education,” Sullivan said. “Perhaps that’s going to make some more people feel comfortable in doing it. It’s still going to be very, very difficult to do.”
Lawmakers said they are going to look more into the governor’s budget over the next few months before it will come to a vote near the end of the legislative session in May.
Rockford Area Lawmakers:
State Rep. Dave Winters (R-Rockford) says his problems with the Quinn budget is not with the tax hike, but with the 4-billion dollars in loans.
“One of his main points is additional borrowing,” Winters said. “We’ve been going down this road for the last six or seven years of never having a truly balanced budget. And this one is so far out of whack it’s unbelievable.”
State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) says Illinois can’t afford a billion dollars in education cuts, or the 4-billion dollars in new debt included in Governor Pat Quinn’s budget proposal.
“Very few details, but the details that are coming to life is record amounts of borrowing, which means Illinois would go deeper into debt,” Syverson said.
Quad Cities Lawmakers:
State Senator Mike Jacobs (D-East Moline) says anyone who looks at the state’s finances should understand the real facts.
“I think the governor pointed out he’s going to cut another billion dollars out of the budget,” Jacobs said. “I don’t know how. We cut 2.2 [billion] last year, so I think through these cuts, through the downsizing of government and some kind of revenue enhancement will be required to get us moving forward again.”
State Rep. Pat Verschoore (D- Milan) says the budget does not surprise him because the state is in deep with budget issues
“There was nothing surprising,” Verschoore said. “[Quinn] just talked about the severe cuts we need, because we have no revenue and until we get some new recurring revenue we are going to have to cut.”
Verschoore says any income tax increase should go to pay the state’s bills.
“If there is an income tax increase it needs to go to pay the bills,” Verschoore said. “We don’t need to start new programs until we pay our existing debt. We need to get back to fiscal responsibility. In these trying ties, people are really suffering. I don’t know what people are going to do if we cut.”
State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) says Governor Quinn told the truth, whether lawmakers in Springfield liked it or not.
“Did I like it? No, I don’t like where we are, but neither does he.” Koehler said. “I thought that his call for a one percent income tax increase for education is exactly the right thing to do.”
State Senator Mike Frerichs (D-Champaign) says he’d be willing to go along with Governor Quinn’s income tax increase, but only if other lawmakers are on-board, and only to avoid massive cuts in education.
“There are an awful lot of cuts in this budget that I think are bad for the future of Illinois and they’ll probably provoke some draconian cuts in services to people in the State of Illinois.”
—Ashley Badgley, Illinois Statehouse News