Local officials and state lawmakers said they weren’t surprised when Gov. Pat Quinn proposed Wednesday to make permanent a once-temporary income tax hike.
Some were critical but most said they expected the governor would keep the tax hike, framing the move as a way to avoid “radical cuts” to education and critical state programs.
Quinn outlined in his budget address what would happen if the income tax, which he signed into law in 2011, were to drop from 5 percent to 3.75 percent in January as scheduled.
His office forecasts a loss of nearly $2 billion for the next fiscal year if that happens.
“If action is not taken to stabilize our revenue code … extreme and radical cuts will be imposed on education and critical public services – cuts that will starve our schools and result in mass teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and higher property taxes,” Quinn said.
State Rep. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, along with every Republican lawmaker, voted against the tax levy in 2011.
“This is my fourth budget address. He always throws out the worst-case scenario, saying all of this will happen unless we support his tax increases,” Rezin said.
There are other ways to generate revenue and balance a budget, she said.
“We need to reform programs, root out fraud and pass policies that promote job growth,” Rezin said, adding that the state could save money with budget cuts. She suggested fully scrubbing the state’s Medicaid rolls of people who don’t meet the program’s eligibility requirements.
Quinn attempted to soften the blow by proposing a $500 annual property tax refund for homeowners.
Rezin argued the proposal “sounds good,” but people are still paying the same in regards to the income tax.
“At the end of the day, $500 is a nice start, but if you do the math, the math doesn’t add up,” she said. “That’s nothing compared to what someone is paying each year in income taxes.”
However, Democrats credited Quinn with taking a bold step in a difficult budget year.
State Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Plainfield, said in a news release that Quinn’s call for additional education for early childhood education, which he dubbed the Birth to Five initiative, is in line with her own goals.
“Although this is an extremely tough budget year, I was happy to see the governor work to keep his word regarding investment in education,” Bertino-Tarrant said.