Income Tax Debate Heats Up in Illinois

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In his bid to be reelected Governor of Illinois, the incumbent Pat Quinn will face a primary challenge from Dan Hynes, the Illinois Comptroller. The two both see a need to move the state's tax system in a more progressive direction, but apparently disagree on how to get there.

Earlier this year, Governor Quinn championed an income tax increase plan which would have raised the state’s constitutionally mandated flat rate from 3 to 4.5 percent, while also increasing the state’s personal exemption from $2,000 to $6,000. Governor Quinn deserves credit for having the courage to talk about raising taxes in a progressive way, given the state’s recent reliance on one-time spending and severe budget cuts. The Governor was obviously aware that, because of constitutional restrictions, he didn't have the option of introducing a graduated income tax (which would have to be approved by the legislature and a vote of the people) and have it become law in time to help solve the state's nearly $12 billion budget shortfall.

Comptroller Hynes unveiled his extensive budget and tax plan on Wednesday citing support for instituting a graduated income tax on Illinoisans with incomes over $200,000. The Hynes plan also calls for various belt-tightening strategies, higher cigarette taxes, closing coporate loopholes, and some sales tax base broadening to include luxury services. It’s undoubtedly good news that the major candidates running for Governor both see the need for progressive income tax reform. 

But points of contention remain. Hynes is denying Quinn’s claim that "In 2004, [Hynes] opposed a graduated income tax. Maybe he's flipped and he's flopped over to our side.''  Hynes is countering that Quinn’s income tax proposal is a “regressive ... 50 percent tax hike on all Illinois families,” a claim that doesn’t hold up to analysis. Let’s hope that the candidates don’t continue to beat up on each other so much that the victim in the debate becomes income tax reform.

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