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Craver: Expect from Quinn a predictable cry for more taxes

Published: Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 11:36 p.m. CDT

I can sum up Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s upcoming State of the State Address on Wednesday with the same word that I’ve used to sum up his previous four.

More.

More spending. More borrowing. Future generations can pay for it. Ignore the constant drone of the moving vans of taxpayers and businesses heading to other states.

(To channel George Santayana, I really wish Springfield would learn from history that socialism only works when you can keep people in with armed guards and razor wire, but that’s a future column.)

Quinn’s addresses are barely worth covering, even one in an election year that will read even more like a Christmas wish list of spending and entitlements.

But there’s that nagging little detail of the “temporary” 67 percent income tax increase that’s supposed to start sunsetting Jan. 1, 2015, halfway through the state’s fiscal year. Or as Quinn undoubtedly will call it, “Armageddon.” Governments look at tax cuts the same way teenagers look at getting dumped or not making the cheerleading squad – life is over!

Lawmakers in the January 2011 lame-duck session passed the largest tax increase in state history – 67 percent on individuals and 46 percent on businesses – in order to pay down the state’s massive backlog of unpaid bills. That backlog is even bigger today – almost every dollar went to feed Squeezy the Pension Python.

The tax rate is set to decrease at the start of 2015 – from 5 percent to 3.75 percent on individuals and from 9.5 percent to 7.75 percent on businesses. Unless, of course, state lawmakers make it permanent.

I think we’ll see Quinn ask for that Wednesday, either indirectly or outright. He likely will also plead with lawmakers to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to go from a flat tax to a progressive one as a way to tax “the rich,” which typically is government newspeak for “anyone making more than minimum wage.”

Because that’s unlikely to clear the House right now, extending the “temporary” income tax increase is the most probable course of action.

Quinn doesn’t care about raising taxes in an election year. He ran in 2010 on a platform of raising taxes and won. Republican Jim Edgar before him ran on making our last “temporary” income tax increase permanent. He won, too.

But my guess is you won’t see many Democratic lawmakers, even though they’re safe in heavily gerrymandered districts, touch an extension of the “temporary” tax increase before the November election. They won’t have to, because they’ll stick with what works – do it after the election.

In 2011, they waited until the last weeks of the session after Jan. 1 – when the votes needed to pass legislation go back to simple majority – and secured the needed “ayes” by dangling state jobs and their luxurious pensions in front of outgoing lawmakers.

Four Democratic lawmakers landed state government jobs that way. Two of them campaigned against the tax increase before they lost their re-election bids.

So my bet is that you won’t see the tax increase extended or made permanent until after November. Until then, expect a steady deluge of whining from the Chicago Sun-Times and the other usual suspects that Illinois needs more of our money.

Should Quinn win re-election, we’ll keep you abreast of how many outgoing lawmakers who vote to make the tax increases permanent end up with “Quinn pro quo” state jobs.

• • •

BALD EAGLES FOR DUMMIES: Part of me dreaded writing the centerpiece on bald eagles that ran last Sunday. I just knew that people were going to mess with them, despite the numerous warnings I included in my story.

I’ve received emails confirming my worst fears – people and their kids seeing how close they can get to them, making lots of noise, being disrespectful, you name it.

Don’t be the idiot we all hated in school who couldn’t behave and ruined things for everybody. If you scare the eagles off, they won’t come back.

I’ll say it again, in small words. Stay far away. Respect eagles’ habitat. Be quiet.

Better yet, if you can’t figure out why messing with a federally protected wild animal is a bad idea, stay at home. Leave the eagles, and the grown-ups watching them, in peace.

Too bad it’s not grizzly bears coming to McHenry County. They know how to deal with people with bad wildlife viewing manners – and what they taste like.

• Kevin P. Craver is senior reporter for the Northwest Herald. He has won more than 70 state and national journalism awards during his 13 years with the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4618 or at kcraver@shawmedia.com.

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