The tax increase is necessary to close a $11.5
billion deficit and part of a broader plan to
reform state government, Quinn told the General
Assembly on Wednesday.
He said Illinois also
needs to limit government spending, overhaul
state pension systems, repair crumbling roads
and bridges, and fight public corruption.
"To be direct and honest: Our state is facing
its greatest crisis of modern times," Quinn told
lawmakers in formally presenting his budget.
"Pass this budget and let's begin a new era of
reform, responsibility and recovery."
Thunderous applause greeted Quinn before he
made his first major address since replacing
ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich. "I hope you're
applauding at the end of this speech," he said,
acknowledging that many lawmakers wouldn't like
what he was going to propose.
They applauded, but reactions afterward
ranged from tentative support to open hostility.
His proposal includes not only the first
income tax increase in Illinois in 20 years -- to
4.5 percent from the current 3 percent -- but
also a $1-a-pack increase in cigarette taxes,
higher business taxes and steeper fees for car
registrations and driver's licenses.
Some of that money would pay for a statewide
program to replace crumbling roads, bridges,
schools and transit systems. The construction
would support 340,000 jobs, Quinn said.
Eager to show that he also wants to cut
spending, Quinn said he has trimmed about $500
million from the current budget and would cut
another $800 million in the upcoming budget.
He's asking state employees to take pay cuts and
proposing lower retirement benefits for future
Democratic legislators were open to Quinn's
ideas, but they predicted changes in the tax
increases and which taxpayers are hardest hit.
They also said Quinn must show the public that
taxes are a last resort.
"I think Illinoisans want to know, 'Before
you raise my cost of living, what are you going
to do to clean up Illinois government? What are
you going to do to reform it? What are you going
to do to fumigate that government?'" House
Speaker Michael Madigan, a Chicago Democrat,
said during an appearance on public television.
Critics of Quinn's proposal attacked from two
Unions representing teachers and state
employees complained that he's unfairly asking
workers to bear the brunt of cleaning up a
financial mess they didn't create. They would
have to take four unpaid days off, pay more for
their health and retirement benefits, and
continue doing their jobs under difficult
conditions -- for instance, working in prisons
that don't have enough guards.