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Area lawmakers discuss state income tax at Woodstock town hall meeting

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 9:53 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 11:50 p.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – Facing a room of constituents Tuesday, several area lawmakers criticized the Democratic majority in Springfield for scheming to pass another lame-duck tax increase to fuel their wasteful spending habits.

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, warned about 35 McHenry County residents during a town hall meeting inside Woodstock City Hall that lawmakers will again wait until after the November election to address the upcoming expiration of the 2011 temporary income tax hike.

He said his Democratic colleagues will “create a crisis” with the state’s massive backlog in payments and unfunded pension obligations to make the 67 percent income tax hike permanent and pave the way to create a progressive tax structure.

“A graduated income tax means more tax dollars for the state,” Franks said. “They aren’t cutting your taxes. It means more.”

State Sen. Pam Althoff, R-McHenry, and Rep. Barbara Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake, agreed with Franks that the state should leave the income tax increase temporary and maintain its flat structure.

Reboot Illinois, a nonprofit focused on public engagement at the state level, hosted the three lawmakers for the town hall event that also focused on the recent pension reform vote.

The expiration of the income tax increase in an election year has already renewed discussions on how to address the state’s fiscal woes. Some Democratic legislators have wanted to use the opportunity to shift the state’s income tax structure to a sliding scale, where people pay different rates based on their income earnings.

Led by Democrats, a lame-duck legislature increased Illinois’ income tax rate in January 2011 (to expire in 2014) on the grounds that the extra revenue was needed to cut down the state’s $6 billion pile of unpaid bills.

But the state merely increased spending for other programs, causing the unpaid backlog to grow, Althoff said. Democrats are unable to quit their frivolous spending habits, she said.

“They don’t want to go in and say to somebody, ‘Your program isn’t working because you aren’t making it work,’ “ Althoff said. “It’s not as simple as saying we don’t want to raise revenue. We don’t want to give money to people to spend inappropriately when we are already in debt.”

Entering her second year in the statehouse, Wheeler said she initially ran on the promise to repeal the state income tax hike on residents and businesses.

She said she questioned state officials why the income tax increase didn’t help alleviate the state’s backlog in payments.

“With higher taxes, it’s harder for employers and people who are spending the money,” Wheeler said. “It’s all a mistake.”

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