As the state of Illinois ponders drastic cutbacks, tax increases and massive borrowing to close its cavernous $13 billion budget gap, lawmakers are looking to appease voters with a bit of populist spending.
With the legislative session set to adjourn at the end of this week and no solutions in sight on the budget crisis, the State House passed a bill Thursday to create a ten-day sales tax holiday, during the back-to-school shopping period in August.
The tax reprieve, supported by Governor Pat Quinn, will apply to low-cost clothing, school supplies and computer accessories, though laptops themselves will not be covered.
Democrats and Republicans unsurprisingly disagreed over the measure, which passed the House by a vote of 65-51.
The Sun-Times shared the Democratic opinion from the man who brought the bill to the table:
Rep. Keith Farnham (D-Elgin), the bill's lead sponsor, said working families who now have trouble clothing their children would benefit most.
"This is about people being able to take their kids and bring them to school with a sense of respect," said Farnham, who is expected to be a top target of the Republican Party in this fall's elections. "This will create jobs, and it will help families."
But Republicans argued that now isn't the moment to give up revenue, with the state's budget in disarray and cuts being made to schools, police forces and human services statewide.
The Republican side, from the Chicago Tribune:
Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, charged the proposal is the height of irresponsibility because it would cost the state between $20 million to $50 million at a time when Illinois is in an unprecedented budget crisis.
"We are literally bankrupt," Black said. "Let's concentrate on the budget. I've been saying this for four months."
And, for good measure, from the Daily Herald: "The proposal now heads to the Senate for consideration."