Huffpost Chicago

Quinn Pitches Tax Hike To Rank-And-File Lawmakers

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CHICAGO (AP) -- Unable to agree with legislative leaders on how to clean up the state's budget mess, Gov. Pat Quinn is taking his case to rank-and-file lawmakers whose support might break the deadlock that has left the government without a budget.

Quinn met Monday with more than three dozen suburban lawmakers about the state's finances. Last week, he met with more than two dozen female legislators and an influential black senator. He plans a meeting soon with downstate lawmakers.

The meetings haven't produced anything resembling a breakthrough, participants say, but they might yield some additional support for a tax increase when the Legislature meets again next week. Quinn says higher taxes are the only fair way to close a deficit he estimates at $9.2 billion.

Even a potential Quinn opponent sees the value in the Democratic governor's effort to enlist help.

"It may increase the likelihood when the four caucuses have their private meetings that there will be more rank-and-file members ... willing to consider where the governor is coming from," said Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, who plans to run for governor next year.

But Murphy isn't one of those people who will be onboard.

"Again, until there is no more talk of a tax hike, I think we're going down the wrong road," he said.

The new fiscal year started July 1, but the state is without a spending plan because Quinn vetoed a piecemeal budget lawmakers slapped together before they adjourned their spring session.

Quinn has stepped up the attention he's paying to rank-and-file members after making little progress brokering a budget deal with the four legislative leaders.

The top Republicans, Senate leader Christine Radogno and House leader Tom Cross, have wanted to see more spending reforms and government efficiencies before they would consider a tax increase. The Democrats, led by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, were split on a tax increase with the Senate passing one but not the House.

Quinn said he's not circumventing the four leaders who largely control what happens at the Capitol by intensifying his meetings with individual members.

"I don't believe in going around anyone, but I do believe in every member takes an oath of office like I do and the oath is to the people of Illinois, to the public interest, to the common good and every member has to be held to account on that," he said.

During his meetings, Quinn said he is listening to budget ideas from lawmakers, explaining his position and even taking criticism.

To try to swing some votes his way, Quinn promised lawmakers he would take action Tuesday on a list of budget cuts as he moves to cut an additional $1 billion from the state budget. The cuts will include layoffs and furlough days. He called furloughs a "good idea" for lawmakers and their legislative staffs.

Quinn declined to specify the cuts, although he said he gave lawmakers a heads-up about what's coming.

It's the specifics of the cuts that state Sen. Susan Garrett, D-Lake Forest, wants to know before she decides on a tax increase.

Garrett said any cuts Quinn makes need to reach across state government and not be focused heavily on social service programs like they were in the budget bill Quinn vetoed, Garrett said.

"I think we're all going in that direction. ... It's about fairness," she said.