SPRINGFIELD — Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has remained mum on whether he wants to keep in place the state income-tax increase that starts to expire next year and now he’s taking steps that will allow him to stay silent until after the March 18 primary election.
Instead of unveiling his budget on Feb. 19 as provided by law, Quinn wants to hold off until March 26, the week after the primary. The governor’s request to legislative leaders for a delay drew criticism from both Democrats and Republicans as a blatant political maneuver.
Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said the governor is asking for more time because he plans to offer a five-year financial blueprint in addition to a one-year budget proposal. Anderson said the state is better positioned for a five-year plan following cutbacks in state pensions, Medicaid and worker contracts, among other changes, though Quinn is not guaranteed to be governor beyond early January 2015.
Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno said her troops have accommodated such requests when they made sense — for example, Quinn got a bit more time to deliver his first budget address after the corrupt ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached and tossed from office in January 2009.
“But to push back the presentation of the state’s budget by five weeks for purely political purposes is a disservice to the taxpayers,” said Radogno, of Lemont. “It’s an abuse of the legislative process.”
Quinn has only nominal competition in the Democratic primary. But the issue looms in the Republican governor primary, where candidates Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington and Bruce Rauner of Winnetka want the tax hike to expire on schedule. Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale, and Treasurer Dan Rutherford of Downstate Chenoa, said they want the tax hike to go away but won’t make a flat-out promise because of the state’s rocky financial situation.
The governor delivered his State of the State address last week, and he outlined a variety of programs, such as an initiative to help develop children from birth to age 5. But he left lawmakers guessing about the costs.
Quinn, who openly pushed for an income tax hike when he ran in 2010, has been offering reasons since last summer for why he won’t tell voters whether the 67 percent hike in the income tax rate should be kept in place, extended for a few more years or made permanent. Among them: the need to pass a bill to change the government employee pension system. That happened two months ago.
Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said Quinn’s delay is for “purely political reasons, which is not a good enough reason to adversely effect the budget process.”
Franks said the only other conclusion would be that the governor is so “inept” at his job that the delay represents an “admission by him that, after five years, he just doesn’t get it and he needs more time.”
Lawmakers could vote on the request this week.
email@example.comCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun