The Register-Mail

Simon says, time to raise taxes

Lt. gov. candidate also supports graduated income tax for Illinois

Friday, July 23, 2010

GALESBURG — Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Sheila Simon thinks the state needs to start raising incomes taxes and isn’t shy about admitting it.

Simon campaigned Thursday in Galesburg, meeting local Democrats at Innkeeper’s coffee shop for a roundtable session that focussed primarily on education issues.

She said there was “no way around” the need to both cut state spending and raise revenue through a tax hike to fix the state’s creaking budget, which is an estimated $13 billion in the red.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Simon said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Simon is running with Gov. Pat Quinn in the fall gubernatorial election. Quinn wanted to raise the state’s income tax rate by one percentage point this year to help fund schools but legislators balked at the idea of doing so in an election year.

Simon praised Quinn’s “honesty in the face of adversity” and spoke strongly in favor of the need to raise the state’s income tax rate.

She also said she supported scrapping the state’s flat tax in favor of a graduated income tax that would place a bigger burden on wealthier people, as is the case already in many states.

Simon emphasized her belief in the importance of education for the future of Illinois.

“Education issues are so important to job issues and economic development,” she said.

Several of the local Democrats Simon spoke to Thursday also urged her to support higher taxes, particularly to support schools, although they acknowledged the difficulty of pushing for increased taxes in the midst of a down economy and an election year.

Quinn has had difficulty in office getting legislation through a state Legislature that has been reluctant to either make deep cuts in state spending or raise taxes.

But Simon said she would work with Quinn to build a grassroots movement across the state that would put pressure on individual legislators to support the governor’s agenda, if Quinn is elected.

If she wins, Simon said she would work to be as accessible as possible. The lieutenant governor position does not come with much power but Simon said she would work closely with Quinn if they win.

“It really is a big open door,” she said of the lieutenant governor post, which Quinn previously held under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Simon replaced Scott Lee Cohen on the Democratic ballot after Cohen pulled out of the race because of controversies in his private life.

She joined the Southern Illinois University School of Law in 1998 and served as an assistant state’s attorney in Jackson County from 1994 to 1998.

She will contest the fall election with Quinn against Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady and his running mate Jason Plummer.