Gov. Pat Quinn outlined his case Wednesday for making Illinois’ temporary income tax increase permanent, predicting “extreme and radical” budget cuts to schools and services without “stabilized” revenue.
The Chicago democrat — embarking on what’s expected to be a difficult re-election bid against republican businessman Bruce Rauner— tied the idea to relief for homeowners, saying he’d like to guarantee every Illinois homeowner a $500 annual refund. He also called for increasing the earned income tax credit for low-income families.
Quinn says if action is not taken to stabilize Illinois’ revenue code, extreme and radical cuts will be imposed on education and critical public services, and will starve schools and result in mass teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and higher property taxes.
The question of what to do with the expiring income tax has nagged lawmakers and those running for office for months. The state’s roughly 67 percent income tax increase was approved in 2011 and starts to roll back in January, leaving a roughly $1.6 billion revenue drop.
State agencies have been bracing for dire cuts, and top lawmakers have been warning of tough choices.
Quinn, who reviewed the difficult budget cuts of years past, previewed more difficult choices in his address, saying that without the increase there would be about 13,000 Illinois teachers laid off, 41,000 fewer children in child care and 11,000 victims of domestic abuse not receiving shelter or assistance.
He said “maintaining” the tax rate would be a “hard choice” but he vowed not to institute any new taxes on “everyday services” that working people relied on. He said he’d like to double the state’s earned income tax credit, to help poor families keep more of what they earn, over the next five years.
Quinn’s speech comes at a critical moment with his re-election bid against Rauner and immense financial challenges, including billions in unpaid bills and uncertainty with pension debt.
The republican nominee for governor says Quinn is “doubling down on his failed policies.”
Rauner did not go to Springfield for Quinn’s budget speech Wednesday. He instead issued a statement afterward that criticized the democrat’s call for extending the temporary income tax increase set to expire in 2015. Quinn also called for property-tax relief.
The businessman from suburban Chicago says Quinn first promised not to raise taxes, then said the 67 percent income tax increase adopted in 2011 would be temporary.
Rauner says that after five years with Quinn as governor, the state still has a record tax hike, high unemployment and education cuts.
He says as governor he would balance the budget without tax increases by creating a “growth economy” and repairing “our broken government,” but he did not explained how he plans to do so.