PI Original Adam Doster Monday December 15th, 2008, 1:08pm

Quinn And The Income Tax

Republicans in Illinois have
not been shy about their disdain for embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich. But
on one crucial issue -- taxes -- the governor has consistently sided with
conservatives, largely honoring his election promise not to raise Illinois' sales or income taxes...

Republicans in Illinois have not been shy about their disdain for embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich. But on one crucial issue -- taxes -- the governor has consistently sided with conservatives, largely honoring his election promise not to raise Illinois' sales or income taxes. And while careless spending (especially on projects that benefit campaign contributors) has contributed to the state’s massive deficit, the governor’s no-tax pledge hasn’t helped either.

On Friday, we noted the wealth of legislative issues that will face Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn if Blagojevich resigns or is impeached in the near future. What we didn’t discuss were the possible revenue sources Quinn might tap as acting governor to plug the state’s budget gap and fund crucial health and social service programs. If history is any lesson, some much needed tax reform may be on the horizon.

In the Daily Herald this morning, John Patterson digs back and provides a window into Quinn’s previous position on Illinois’ flat income tax:

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who would become governor if Blagojevich is ousted, has shown support for tax increases, backing a constitutional amendment in 2004 that would have doubled the state income tax for those making more than $250,000 in order to raise more than a billion dollars for schools and property tax breaks. That plan has not been successful.

As we’ve written before, state lawmakers should seriously consider implementing a progressive income tax, either through legislation or by amending the state constitution. Despite boasting the fifth largest state economy in the nation, Illinois ranks 45th in tax burden as a percentage of income.

As a result, revenues are lower than they ought to be and working and middle class citizens shoulder a disproportionate burden. Last year, for example, the bottom 20 percent of Illinois wage-earners paid the fourth highest share of any income-tax generating state in the nation. Meanwhile, the top one percent paid the least, proportionately. In the interest of fairness, the vast majority of Illinois taxpayers favor raising income tax rates on the wealthiest residents -- even during a recession.

As Patterson notes, income tax reform would theoretically be far easier to implement with Blagojevich out of the way. Because the Democrats control the governor’s mansion and both chambers, they could pass a tax increase without a single Republican supporter. House Speaker Michael Madigan has suggested he could support a tax hike and Senate Democrats have long supported such a proposal.

If the tax rate were hiked by a mere 3 percent for households making more than $250,000 a year, the state would generate around $3 billion more annually. If invested in infrastructure and education, that kind of money would go a long way in securing Illinois’ economic future.

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