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Quinn tweaks budget plan to draw support

Quinn tweaks budget plan to draw support

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SPRINGFIELD - With time running short, Gov. Pat Quinn has offered up a new twist on his budget plan in hopes of garnering a last minute dose of support from lawmakers. | DATABASE: Search state employee salaries

In an interview with the Lee Enterprises Springfield Bureau Wednesday, Quinn said he wasn't backing off his demand to raise the state income tax rate to 4.5 percent, up from its current 3 percent.

But, he no longer is calling for the personal exemption to move from $2,000 to $6,000. Rather, he has agreed to raise it to $3,000, meaning there will be less relief from the proposed tax hike.

He's also calling for changes that could benefit the working poor and homeowners. In all, his plan would bring in an estimated $3.7 million in new revenue to help close a $12 billion budget gap.

"Yeah, it's a little different," Quinn said. "The basic blueprint is the same."

"We hope to get to heaven with that," Quinn added.

With less than a week left in the scheduled legislative session, Republicans, however, weren't biting.

"I don't think you'll see Republican votes on that proposal," said state Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington.

Democratic lawmakers were preparing a lengthy list of programs that might be cut if no income tax hike is approved.

On Wednesday, the House also voted 102-0, with 14 "present" votes, to send a message that members want to fully fund state employee pension payments. One budget option that has been under consideration would reduce or skip paying an estimated $2 billion into the pension funds in order to use that money for general state operations.

Some viewed the vote as a way to pressure lawmakers into voting for an income tax increase in order to avoid drastic cuts to state programs.

"I just hope this isn't part of some kind of strategy," said state Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville.

As the clock ticked down toward a Sunday adjournment deadline, Quinn said he hopes the changes help get lawmakers home for the summer.

The current Illinois earned income tax credit matches 5 percent of the federal credit. Quinn would bump that up to 10 percent. For a family of four earning about $42,000 annually, that would amount to an estimated $480 in relief.

Quinn also wants to provide more property tax relief. Currently, homeowners can deduct five percent of their property taxes on their income taxes. Quinn wants to double that credit to 10 percent.

State Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, said he thinks the lower deduction makes the tax more fair. Quinn's original plan would have actually reduced taxes for some families that didn't earn enough.

"It puts us on a flat tax where everybody pays," Jacobs said Wednesday.

Republicans like state Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, want assurances that money raised by a tax hike will be spent wisely.

"We need to get control of spending. Will this money be directed to debt reduction? They need to tell me how they are going to change bad habits," Bost said.

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