Many members of the Illinois Legislature are on their way out the door, but not before attempting to give Gov. Pat Quinn the income tax hike he's wanted since his first day on the job. Quinn's coveted economy-killer has had a number of iterations over the past 18 months:
- May of 2009: 50 percent income tax increase. This proposal would have increased the income tax rate from 3 percent to 4.5 percent and taken roughly $4 billion from the private economy near the peak of Illinois’ recession. It failed in the legislature, largely because of voter disapproval by a 30 point margin.
March of 2010: 33 percent income tax increase. Believing it was the size of his previous plan that turned off constituents, Gov. Quinn presented a scaled-down income tax hike that would have increased the rate to 4 percent, a $3 billion tax increase. This also went nowhere.
- July 2010: “secret” 67 percent income tax increase. Quinn’s plan to wait until after the election to impose this whopping $6 billion tax hike was clever until it was revealed in an interview with his budget director David Vaught: “We’re going to pass a tax increase in January,” he said. “We expect it is going to be very substantial.” Taxpayers appreciate his candor much more than the governor’s subsequent scurried attempt to reject his assertion.
- August 2010: 33 percent income tax increase. Last week Quinn returned to his previous call to increase the rate to 4 percent, calling it “a pretty good bargain for taxpayers.”
Now, according to the Illinois Policy Institute, the tax scheme may result in a whopping 83 percent increase. Not that Speaker Michael Madigan is keen on letting taxpayers in on the secret, of course. The entire process is playing out in a closed-door lame duck session, before the new, more taxpayer-friendly legislature gavels in on January 12.
If you're in Illinois, call your lawmakers now and tell them this job-killing, anti-democratic process is unacceptable.
To see ATR's letter to Illinois lawmakers, see below. For a PDF copy, click here.
January 6, 2011
Unsurprisingly, Gov. Pat Quinn and legislative Democrats are rushing to enact a crippling income tax increase by any means necessary. By doing so in a last-minute lame duck session bereft of transparency, they are acting expressly in contempt of voters, who oppose such a massive tax hike, especially from a legislature with one foot out the door. I urge you to see through the usual horse-trading gimmicks taking place in Springfield and oppose a tax increase of any kind.
House Republican Leader Tom Cross was correct to characterize Democrats’ efforts to “justify” an income tax increase with toothless spending restraint as falling “woefully short.” In particular, a phony spending cap being pushed by Speaker Michael Madigan is woefully inadequate. Its “emergency” loopholes (along with exemptions for pension payments) are enormous, rendering the cap effectively useless. And it pushes any remaining restraint to 2014, when a presumed multi-billion dollar income tax increase would further inflate the spending baseline.
Rep. Mike Bost has filed an amendment to the Speaker’s bill addressing its major flaws. With the amendment in place, the bill represents real reform and should be supported.
Regardless of any offer of budgetary reform, real or imaginary, I urge you to remain steadfast in opposition to a tax increase of any size. Illinois' economy – its small business owners and individual taxpayers in particular – cannot sustain the drubbing of yet another round of tax hikes.
The current budget crisis is a product of overspending. While an amended spending cap that eliminates massive exemptions and loopholes would certainly be a positive development for taxpayers, a tax increase should be firmly off the table. Illinois legacy of profligacy, debt and deficits must end here.
To ignore the will of the voters by ramming a massive tax increase through as the legislature walks out the door is a slap in the face of those who choose to participate in the democratic process. On their behalf, I ask that you end discussion of a lame duck surprise and commit to an adult conversation about the state budget when the next legislature gavels in on January 12.
If you have any questions about this issue, please contact ATR state affairs manager Joshua Culling at [email protected].