Quinn's Tax Bluff

Make no mistake, Quinn wants a tax hike but he can't sell it

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Governor Pat Quinn's playing a little game with his budget.

    In an effort to convince reticent lawmakers to raise taxes to help rescue the state from a crushing $13 billion deficit, he's left a tax hike out of his budget proposal.

    Instead of hiking taxes to unprecedented levels, the governor proposes taking out a loan.

    He plans to borrow nearly $4.7 billion to cover the state's operating budget, cut $2 billion in spending and pass the buck -- or more precisely $6 billion bucks worth of bills  --  to next years legislature.

    "He's not included a tax increase in this budget, and that's a conversation that has to happen," his chief of staff, Jerome Stermer, said Tuesday while briefing reporters.

    Make no mistake, Quinn wants a tax hike.

    The Democratic governor has long embraced an income tax increase as the key to closing the biggest budget deficit in Illinois history, but lawmakers weren't game to approve one last year, and this being an election year, they're even less willing.

    Basically Quinn's saying: fine, here's the alternative.

    "I think that what you see the governor doing is calling the bluff of those who say you can do this without a tax increase," Ralph Martire, executive director of the Chicago-based Center for Tax and Budget Accountability said.

    Quinn's aides did not outright call this budget proposal a doomsday scenario meant to pressure legislators into supporting a tax increase, but they did say repeatedly that Quinn has not had a change of heart.

    Most of the savings in Quinn's planned proposal would come from cutting education spending by $1.3 billion, or roughly 10 percent. That could mean up to 13,000 teachers will lose their jobs.

    State employees would have to take unpaid days off, saving $200 million. Prescription drug benefits for the elderly would be cut in half, saving $70 million.

    Not to mention, the $13 billion tab for the state isn't going anywhere.