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‘Straight talk’ on increasing income taxes

Give governor credit for being candid on plans

Published: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT
Caption
(AP)
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn addresses the crowd declaring his primary election victory during his election night reception on March 18 in Chicago.

However you feel about the need, or lack thereof, of making the income tax increase permanent, you have to give Gov. Pat Quinn credit for at least one thing.

He’s given political analysts material to debate for who knows how long.

How many major-party candidates for governor call for an income tax vote in an election year? Especially when a poll released the same week shows 60 percent of voters against making the temporary increase permanent.

It’s not the standard dodge-and-weave we’ve come to expect from candidates.

Will Quinn’s straight talking, as he is calling it, enable him to win another term?

Or will pundits forever debate whether Quinn cost himself the election by calling for continuation of an unpopular income tax increase?

Alas, it’s going to be several long months before we will know.

Waste and fraud: Where is it?

By the way, that poll showing most voters opposed to making the tax hike permanent also showed voters had no real taste for cutting the budget to make up for the lost revenue.

In category after category, like education, public safety, or aid to the poor, a majority said they didn’t want to see cuts. Most thought the billions in lost revenue could be made up by eliminating waste and fraud.

It can’t. No one, but no one, has identified anywhere close to that amount of waste and fraud. If you hear a candidate claim that is the solution, demand that the person specifically identify where and how much fraud and waste they’ve identified.

If one comes up with the $4 billion or so that will be needed in a couple of years, contact us. That would be a major news story.

Retire the word

‘temporary’

We don’t know the outcome of this yet, but if the General Assembly votes to make the temporary income tax hike permanent, can we forever retire the phrase “temporary tax increase” from the state’s political vocabulary?

Quinn likens

self to Edgar

In his budget speech last week, Quinn drew a comparison between himself and former Gov. Jim Edgar.

It was because Quinn’s budget proposal calls for property tax relief to be part of the deal where the income tax increase is made permanent.

Quinn said Illinois has underfunded schools and consequently overburdened property taxpayers who supply most of the money for schools. Quinn likened his proposal to Edgar’s 1997 plan to swap higher income taxes for lower property taxes.

Whether or not you buy that comparison, it was an interesting choice for Quinn. Edgar’s plan ultimately went nowhere. Presumably, Quinn hopes his plan doesn’t experience the same outcome.

However, in 1990, when Republican Edgar first ran for governor, his platform included a call to make permanent what had been at the time another temporary income tax increase. His Democratic opponent was against the idea. Edgar, of course, won.

You’d think Quinn would use that example if he’s going to compare himself to Edgar.

Quotable quotes

“He was saying things that make my little heart go pitter-patter. I think he finally got it. I don’t know about the rest of these guys.”

– Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, giving Quinn generally high marks for his budget speech.

• • •

“It would take a few years to do. Anything else would be such a shock to the system. Think of the government as a human body. It would be like a heart attack. No aspirin involved. I mean, kaboom. That would not be good.”

– Topinka explaining why phasing out the income tax hike would be better than letting it expire all at once.

• • •

“There are a lot of promises that get thrown around down here. We have to start learning how to keep them. This is one.”

– Topinka saying the income tax increase should expire, although not all at once.

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