Illinois Democrats Back Taxes to Pay Bills and Plug Budget Hole

Friday, 07 Jan 2011 07:13 AM

 

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Illinois Democratic leaders in the General Assembly say they have an agreement with Governor Pat Quinn to raise income taxes and corporate levies to help eliminate a budget deficit of at least $13 billion this year.

The Democratic plan includes about $12 billion in borrowing to make pension contributions and pay bills. The components of the revenue-generating package could change, Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat, said yesterday.

Illinois’s worst financial crisis is prompting the proposal to raise the state’s 3 percent personal income tax to 5¼ percent. Two percentage points of that increase would be temporary, lasting three years, Cullerton said.

“It’s the right time to do it because we’re in desperate need to pay our bills,” Cullerton told reporters at the state capitol in Springfield.

Patty Schuh, a spokeswoman for the Senate minority leader, Republican Christine Radogno, didn’t immediately respond to a call after regular business hours seeking comment.

The current legislative session ends at midnight Jan. 11.

The Senate has been wrestling with a bill authorizing the state to sell $3.7 billion in bonds to make this year’s payment into underfunded state pensions.

The Democratic proposal was developed in a meeting with Quinn, a Democrat, and House Speaker Michael Madigan, Cullerton said. The increase in the corporate tax rate would raise an additional $1 billion annually, he said. Cigarette taxes would also rise by $1 per pack.

Illinois faces a backlog of more than $6 billion in unpaid bills. In November, the state sold $1.5 billion of bonds backed by tobacco settlement payments to help pay vendors.

Illinois shares with California the lowest U.S. state credit rating from Moody’s Investors Service, which in September forecast possible “further financial deterioration.”


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