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No stance taken on permanent tax hike

Lawmakers mum on their position

You’ve been giving the state government an extra week’s pay every year since 2011. That’s when the state increased its income tax from 3 percent to 5 percent.

The hike was billed as temporary, but Gov. Pat Quinn last week proposed to make it permanent.

Two local lawmakers have yet to take a stand on Quinn’s proposal – state Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, and Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-Moline, whose districts include Whiteside County.

“I don’t want to say whether I would support or oppose it,” Smiddy said in a telephone interview Monday. “Being that I’m on the Appropriations Committee, I want to see that we go through this process. I want to have firm numbers in front of me.”

In an interview with the Quad-City Times last week, Smiddy was reported as saying that the idea to extend the temporary tax increase was a good move.

“We’ll just have to look at it, see what they bring for us in the Legislature in the next few months,” he told the newspaper.

State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-Moline, said Monday the state had “a lot of reason to keep the tax.” At the same time, he said, legislators sold the tax as temporary.

Without it, Jacobs said, the state would lose $1.6 billion a year in revenue. And the state’s pension and Medicaid obligations are expected to increase by more than $1 billion next year, he observed.

If the state lets the tax increase expire, it will have to cut front-line operations by 20 percent, meaning layoffs of police officers and teachers, Jacobs said.

“The voters of the 36th District deserve an honest discussion,” he said.

In his budget address last week, Quinn made the case for extending the tax increase, predicting “extreme and radical” budget cuts to schools and services, if the state does not have more revenue.

He linked his proposal to relief for homeowners, saying he would like to get a $500 annual refund for each state resident who pays property taxes. He also pushed for expanding the earned income tax credit for poor families.

Before the governor’s address last Wednesday, powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan warned his House colleagues during a closed-door meeting to “keep their powder dry” about Quinn’s proposals, according to Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax newsletter. The speaker didn’t want them to make statements that they would have to take back later, the newsletter said.

In a news release, Jim Wozniak, Smiddy’s Republican opponent in November’s general election, took exception to arguments that government services such as education would suffer without the tax hike. And he criticized Smiddy for calling a tax extension a good move.

“The only move you will see from this tax increase is the move of people and businesses from Illinois, and that certainly is not good,” Wozniak wrote. “The problem with Pat Quinn and my opponent is that their fear mongering makes the faulty assumption that every dollar currently spent in Illinois is done so perfectly.”

To cut the budget, Wozniak suggested eliminating “levels of unneeded bureaucracy” and “rooting out” every wasted dollar.

In an interview Monday, Wozniak said he wouldn’t consider any tax increases until the spending side of the equation is fully addressed.

Neil Anderson, Jacobs’ GOP opponent, also opposes extending the income tax increase.

Quinn, Anderson said in a Facebook posting, broke a promise when he proposed making the increase permanent.

Anderson, a Moline firefighter who was on shift Monday, couldn’t be reached for comment.

State Sen. Tim Bivins and Rep. Tom Demmer, both Dixon Republicans, oppose extending the tax increase.

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