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Why no tax holiday?

August is here, and so is the first anniversary of Illinois’ first-ever statewide sales tax holiday. However, the holiday will not be repeated in 2011. Why?

Illinois’ first-ever statewide sales tax holiday came in with a bang in 2010, but it left with a whimper.

The tax break, which ran last year from Aug. 6 through Aug. 15, was promoted extensively by Gov. Pat Quinn, then in the midst of a tough re-election campaign.

The governor was effusive in his praise of the 2010 sales tax holiday and how it would help average Illinois families afford back-to-school supplies and clothing.

“Back-to-school shopping can be expensive and difficult for families that are already struggling to make ends meet. ... [T]he sales tax holiday will boost Illinois businesses while helping every child in Illinois get the school supplies they need to succeed in the classroom,” Quinn said last summer.

The governor visited retail stores during the 10-day sales tax holiday to remind shoppers of the tax break and help merchants drum up business.

A website was established for Illinoisans to consult regarding which items did and didn’t qualify for the 5 percent discount (equivalent to the state’s portion of the sales tax normally charged on purchases).

And Quinn’s people in the Department of Revenue pointed out that Illinois’ sales tax holiday was longer than competing holidays in Iowa and Missouri, so Illinoisans had a longer window of opportunity to reap the savings.

Because of Quinn’s efforts, a lot of families were aware of the tax break and took advantage of it.

That was then; this is now.

August is here. Illinois families once again are preparing for the upcoming school year. School supplies must be purchased, along with apparel for students, many of whom have grown taller since spring.

Any chance of a repeat of the statewide sales tax holiday?

Not this year.

The governor has said nary a peep about it, because the Illinois General Assembly didn’t reauthorize the tax holiday. Frankly, we don’t recall the governor pushing very hard for a reauthorization, either.

What’s different in 2011?

The economy still isn’t very robust.

Families still are struggling to make ends meet, and back-to-school shopping remains “expensive and difficult,” to use Quinn’s words from last year.

Besides, the state has had a hefty chunk of new money coming in since January, after the Legislature approved and Quinn signed big increases in income tax rates for individuals and businesses.

So, you’d think it would have been even easier this year than last for the state to give back-to-school shoppers a temporary sales tax break.

The cynic might point out that last year was an election year, and this year isn’t.

But surely that wouldn’t be the reason the governor and Legislature forgot all about extending the sales tax holiday in 2011.

Would it?

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