Is the Quinn administration preparing a state income tax hike push for the January lame-duck session? A few recent interviews suggests it's a possibility.
At a news conference Tuesday, Gov. Pat Quinn made a curious claim. He told reporters that the 2,000 social service providers who are owed a total of $6 billion in backlogged state appropriations "will be paid by the end of the year, if not sooner." Considering that the budget he signed into law does into include any money to pay down this deficit, we wondered where the cash would come from.
Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget director David Vaught (pictured above) might have provided the answer yesterday, telling Bloomberg that the administration expects lawmakers to raise the state's income tax rate from 3 to 5 percent during the January lame-duck session:
“We’re going to pass a tax increase in January,” Vaught said. “We expect it is going to be substantial.”
The specifics of the proposed rate hike are a bit out of step with his boss' message (Quinn spent most of this year pushing for a one-percentage-point hike). Nonetheless, Vaught has consistently said that the governor will fight for new revenue until the very end of this year's legislative session. Here's a video we shot of him making the point in early May, when he noted that there will be "lots of other opportunities to do the right thing" before January 31, 2011:
Of course, Quinn has not yet demonstrated that he can convince the General Assembly to go along with the plan. And all of this likely hinges on whether GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady takes out Quinn this November. If that happens, there is no way House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) will want to begin relieving the state's fiscal problems in January -- just weeks before a new Republican governor steps in.
On the flip side, if Quinn wins in November, a few Republicans and the business community might be willing to back his effort, assuming the initial burst of revenue (estimated at $6 billion annually) is used to pay down bills and add some stability to the state's budget process. If he attracts the support of progressives by adding in protections for low- and middle-income taxpayers (such as increases in the state's personal exemption, Earned Income Tax Credit, and property tax credit), he might just be able to build a coalition prepared to take the state's structural deficit head on.