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Guest column: Huh? Lose 99 to 3 and proclaim a mandate?

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Illinois has 102 counties. Pat Quinn won three of them in the Nov. 2 election. In 99 of Illinois’ 102 counties, Quinn lost.

Does that sound like a mandate to you? It does to Quinn, which probably tells us more than most people want to know about the man who became governor less than two years ago because the feds arrested, and lawmakers impeached, his immediate predecessor.

The immediate predecessor of Quinn’s immediate predecessor sits in federal prison as you read this, which probably tells us more about government in this woeful state than most people care to admit, because we’re the reason liars, thieves, fools and cheats attain high office here.

In the Nov. 2 election, Quinn eked out a victory for a full term as governor by winning less than half the popular vote. (I use the phrase “full term” cautiously, knowing that four of our past seven governors have been convicted of crimes in federal court.) His margin of victory over his main challenger, Republican state Sen. Bill Brady, was less than one-half of 1 percent.

The three counties Quinn won are Cook (which includes Chicago), St. Clair (which includes East St. Louis), and Alexander, one of the state’s poorest counties, in the Shawnee National Forest at the southern tip of Illinois.

Those counties rely extensively on government money, political corruption or both to function. And they are the reason Quinn will remain governor.

More than half of Quinn’s vote total came from Cook County. He received more than 500,000 more votes there than did Brady, in an election where the difference statewide was some 19,000 votes.

Yet Quinn has boldly told reporters that his re-election is a “mandate” for a higher income tax. He says the state needs the tax hike because of its disastrous fiscal situation.

Among other things, officials are projecting a $15 billion budget deficit. Illinois also has the nation’s worst credit rating and worst unfunded pension liability. The state ranks 48th in economic performance, 47th in economic outlook, 44th in gross domestic product growth from 1998 to 2008, 48th in employment growth, and 48th in net out-migration, with nearly 638,000 fleeing the state from 1998 to 2008, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council.

And instead of using the proposed additional tax money to solve these problems, Quinn has proclaimed he’ll put most of it into “education.” He actually calls his proposal to raise the state income tax from 3 percent to 4 percent – a 33 percent increase – an “education surcharge.” Apparently we can’t throw too much money at the teachers union members who endorsed Quinn and poured money into Democrats’ campaign coffers statewide.

Fortunately for Illinois, teachers and their immediate family members don’t make up a majority of citizens, a fact that may have escaped our re-elected governor and may explain the results of last month’s survey by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, which certainly cannot be accused of being in the small-government camp.

The Simon Institute, based at Southern Illinois University, reported its statewide survey showed voters reject Quinn’s income tax increase proposal by a 15-point margin, 56.2 percent to 40.9 percent. Even in Chicago, where Quinn overwhelmed Brady, voters oppose the increase by 56.8 percent to 38.3 percent. African-Americans – who gave Quinn 91 percent of their votes – oppose the income tax hike 56.0 percent to 39.6 percent. Hispanics – who gave Quinn 64 percent of their vote – reject his tax proposal 56.5 percent to 43.5 percent.

The real dividing line in the state, which led to Quinn’s razor-thin victory, is not a passion for taxes; it’s social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, plus the strength of identity politics in Illinois, which convinces some people they must vote Democrat or Republican no matter what.

Quinn must be delusional to believe he has a mandate to raise taxes when he lost nearly every county, received less than half the popular vote, and sees poll results showing even his strongest supporters oppose his tax hike proposal.

• Steve Stanek of McHenry is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute.

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