PI Original Progress Illinois Sunday May 31st, 2009, 10:59am

Meeks' Plan Passes Senate - Will It Be Voted On In The House? (UPDATED)

Last night, the Illinois Senate approved a proposal that we've repeatedly highlighted in recent weeks -- Sen. James Meek's tax plan, which now has the bill number HB 174.  The latest version of the measure increases both the personal and corporate income tax to 5 percent and ...

Last night, the Illinois Senate approved a proposal that we've repeatedly highlighted in recent weeks -- Sen. James Meek's tax plan, which now has the bill number HB 174.  The latest version of the measure increases both the personal and corporate income tax to 5 percent and expands the sales tax to certain consumer services.  It also provides tax relief by raising the personal exemption from $2,000 to $3,000, doubling the state property tax credit, and tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit, which targets low-income families.  It is estimated to generate $5.2 billion in revenue. And as Illinois Issues notes, "Over time, the tax plan would funnel more money into education and higher education, something Meeks wanted for years to address funding disparities between school districts throughout the state."

A few good quotes from yesterday's debate, via the Daily Herald's John Patterson:

“If we don’t do this, who you gonna cut?” state Sen. Rickey Hendon, a Chicago Democrat said to Republican critics. "The disabled? The senior citizens? Should the school children not have books? Should people with mental health problems just be put out in the street?"

“The campaign is not now,” said state Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat. “The people of Illinois want an answer. They don’t want you to sit on your butt and do nothing.”

State Sen. Donne Trotter, a Chicago Democrat: “We haven’t raised taxes in 16 years. ... We can’t buy the same milk, the same services with 1993 dollars.”

State Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat: "To be quite frank I want to go back home and make my father proud, and my mom proud … that I’m doing the right thing and I’m going to vote yes.”

This brings us to the final day of the regular session.  But will the House even move for a vote on the bill? 

There appear to be some serious doubts.  From the State-Journal Register:

Some Democratic senators said they would not be surprised if the bill were never called for a vote in the House.

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last night:

Still looks unlikely that the House will touch any tax hike like this. 

It's been a long time coming for SB 750.  Meeks has repeatedly proposed it in previous sessions as a way to get the state's financial house in order and, ultimately, balance the inequitable school funding formula in the state.  Would be a shame to see it ignored by the House today.

UPDATE (11:33 am): Here's a statement out from Keith Kelleher, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois/Indiana:

“Last night's vote by the Illinois Senate was an act of tremendous political courage.  Illinois families can breathe a little bit easier now because 31 senators took a stand to protect vital public services for children, seniors and people with disabilities by voting to raise the income tax. It is critical that the House quickly follow suit and that both chambers pass a final budget bill that fully funds the services Illinois families depend on.”

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