Statehouse rally for tax increase could be largest in history

2010-04-19T14:31:00Z Statehouse rally for tax increase could be largest in historyBy Chris Essig |
April 19, 2010 2:31 pm  • 

SPRINGFIELD -- Up to 15,000 citizen lobbyists are expected to descend on the Capitol on Wednesday to rally for a tax increase to help fix the state's crippled budget.

If those estimates are correct, the rally will be the largest in Statehouse history.

"In fact, it may be twice as large as anything before it," said Anders Lindall, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.

As it stands, the state is in a $13 billion hole, leaving the state months behind in paying its vendors. The budget crisis has also hit schools, social service agencies and law enforcement, causing layoffs and service reductions across the state.

The rally will be targeting lawmakers, who Lindall said have done little to fix the state's fiscal problems.

"The coalition is going to be sending a very strong message that inaction is not acceptable," Lindall said.

But the rally probably won't push leery politicians to support a controversial tax increase in an election year, said many local lawmakers. Gov. Pat Quinn wants a 33 percent income tax increase to help fund proposed education cuts.

"To say that is going to rally enough support for a tax increase, I don't think so," said state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington.

The rally is being organized by the Responsible Budget Coalition, a group that represents 200 interest groups across the state. Lindall estimates 200 busloads of people will be making their way to Springfield.

For example, about 60 educators from the Bloomington-Normal area will be attending the protest.

The cost of hiring substitutes -- about $90 a day each -- to fill in while the teachers are in Springfield will be covered by the Illinois Education Association.

While the rally could be huge, many lawmakers made the point that many people in their districts vehemently oppose a tax increase.

"The constituents I speak with who have watched what has happened over the last couple of years know there are systemic problems in state government that have to be fixed before we should talk about increasing taxes," said State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon.

The group that will make its way to the Capitol is rallying behind House Bill 174, a controversial measure that would increase the individual income tax rate and expand the state's sales tax base. Last legislative session, it passed the Senate and is now pending in the House.

But Republicans argue more spending cuts and reforms need to be made before a tax increase should be considered.

-- Phyllis Coulter contributed to this report.

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