Illinois Statehouse News

Quinn Downplays Top Staffer’s Tax Hike Plan

Monday, August 02, 2010

CHICAGO– Gov. Pat Quinn appears to be having a problem with message control concerning his tax policies, thanks to one of his top aides.

The governor’s budget director, David Vaught, said lawmakers intend to increase the individual tax rate by 66 percent come Jan. 1 in an interview on Wednesday.

“We’re going to pass a tax increase in January,” he told Bloomberg News. “We expect it is going to be substantial.”
A proposed increase could bring in $6 billion, according to Vaught’s calculations, which would help backfill the state’s monumental $13 billion budget deficit. But Vaught’s announcement could have a much more immediate impact on Quinn’s campaign prospects.

The state is still reeling from a struggling economy, despite moderate job rate increases in the last few months, and lawmakers are apprehensive to show support for raising taxes during an election year, which made Vaught’s statement all the more surprising.

Quinn is now trying to distance himself from the budget director’s proposal, while affirming his own plan.

“I don’t think (Vaught) should philosophize about taxes. I will tell him that. I don’t think he should talk about any other plan than my plan,” he said Thursday. “My plan is very straightforward, it’s a 1-percent surcharge on the income tax and that will be used exclusively for education.”

As of now, the state’s individual income tax rate stands at 3 percent. Under Vaught’s scenario, both the individual and corporate income tax rates would be raised to 5 percent.

Quinn has championed a proposal to raise the individual income tax rate to 4 percent — what he has dubbed the “one percent education surcharge” — to bring in more than $1 billion for education, but lawmakers have not shown support for the proposal.

The timing of Vaught’s tax-hike scenario will not be lost on voters–it is nearly two months after the November election–which makes the story even more troubling for Quinn.

Quinn’s opponent for the November general election, state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, criticized Quinn for considering tax hike proposals while boosting the salaries of some of his top officials.

“It seems that Gov. Quinn’s policies are to raise the taxes on the backs of Illinois families and businesses to pay for his bigger, bloated government,” he said. “I’m here today to assure the people of Illinois and the businesses of this state that as governor, I will not raise taxes on families and businesses.”

Brady took time to criticize Vaught, who received a $24,000 boost to take his annual salary to $144,000 per year.
Quinn said Brady’s statements concerning no tax increases were misleading, and that homeowners would feel the strain if Brady became governor.

“We cannot have politicians from Bloomington running around Illinois telling people before an election (that) nothing is going to happen as far as tax reform when it comes to supporting education, but then after the election presiding over the biggest property tax increase in Illinois history,” he said.

Both candidates’ approach to taxes will be scrutinized as the state’s Nov. 2 general election nears.