McCaleb: Quinn is either smartest governor, or he’s not

Gov. Pat Quinn might just be the smartest governor in the country.

Either that or, well, he’s not.

Let’s spend the next couple of minutes trying to figure out which.

Quinn and his Democratic colleagues in the Illinois General Assembly succeeded this week in passing a 67 percent personal income-tax increase and a 46 percent corporate tax increase.

Governors from the 49 other U.S. states had no such success, not even in ultra-liberal California.

Quinn said the tax hikes, combined with new spending caps, would be a boon to Illinois’ economy because they would help relieve the state of its burdensome debt.

“I really do feel that this reform and restraint will lead to more jobs and economic growth in Illinois,” he said.

Governors from neighboring states, supported by tax policy experts across the country, disagreed, saying the “reforms” that Quinn talked about would have a crippling effect on Illinois’ economy.

“Illinois’ tax climate ranked 23rd in the country last year in terms of favorable places to do business, but that ranking has now dropped to 36th – a sign that the state has, overnight, become a significantly less attractive place to invest,” said Kail Padgitt, staff economist with the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation, a nonprofit organization that monitors fiscal policies of government bodies across the nation. “The new corporate tax hikes will give the state the third-highest rates in the country, undermining the state’s ability to foster business development – in particular relative to its lower-tax neighbors like Indiana and Missouri.”

But Quinn apparently knows better, saying that he doesn’t think the tax hikes will result in an exodus of jobs and businesses to neighboring states.

Governors from those states, however, are using the tax hikes as a recruiting tool to lure Illinois’ employers their way.

“Wisconsin is open for business,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said. “Illinois is heading in the opposite direction.”

Walker was joined by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels in publicly trying to lure Illinois’ employers to their states.

Reporters covering the middle-of-the-night votes this week observed Quinn smiling and shaking hands with Democratic lawmakers after the tax hikes finally passed, celebrating as if he had just won the Super Bowl.

But the governor of the Lone Star State didn’t think the hikes warranted such celebration, at least not in the Land of Lincoln.

“Nothing stifles innovation” more than tax increases, Texas’ Rick Perry said, jumping on the “Bash Illinois” bandwagon.

So on the one side is Quinn, who believes the tax increases will help our state’s economy.

And on the other side is, well, just about everyone else.

I know which way I’m leaning, but I’ll let you decide for yourself just how smart our governor is.

• Dan McCaleb is editor of the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4603, or by e-mail at dmccaleb@nwherald.com.

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