SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Democrats were out Wednesday justifying a sharp increase in the state income tax that some acknowledge could cost them votes when the entire General Assembly is up for grabs next year.
Gov. Pat Quinn pledged to quickly sign the legislation that raises the personal income tax rate from 3 percent to 5 percent for four years – a 66 percent increase – and boosts corporate income taxes as well to help fix a deficit that could top $15 billion this year.
“One way to look at this is what’s right is not always what’s popular and what’s popular is not always what’s right. I think we did the right thing for the people,” said Quinn, who was sworn in this week to a full, four-year term.
But some Democratic lawmakers admit they’ll have to answer to voters for reaching into their wallets and fend off Republican foes who are sure to make it a campaign issue.
“No one wants to make a tough vote, but again that’s what we’re elected to do. It’s not going to be an easy vote all the time,” state Sen. Emil Jones III said. The vote took place as part of the ending lame-duck session.
Quinn had asked lawmakers for nearly two years to pass a tax increase to help heal the state’s ailing finances.
His office has said the higher taxes will generate about $6.8 billion a year to help balance the state’s annual budget and let officials begin digging out from underneath a mountain of unpaid bills.
The Illinois Republican Party wasted no time trying to capitalize on the tax increase, issuing a statement touting that 90 Democrats and no Republicans voted for the tax increase.
They listed Democrats’ names and contact numbers.
“I think the Republicans are already pacing themselves exactly for that because nobody wants to pay a higher tax,” said state Sen. Louis Viverito, a suburban Chicago Democrat. “But, obviously when you can’t pay your bills and your bond ratings are going down and your providers aren’t getting the money they need . . . you have to be man enough to realize that there comes a time in life where love alone can’t pay the bills.”