A new report suggests that Governor Pat Quinn is hoping to buy support from Illinois' mayors for his proposed income tax increase.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports Monday that Quinn is offering to renew state funding for 272 cities -- funding that is slated to be cut in the new budget -- if those cities' mayors would support his budget plan. He hopes to raise the state's income tax from 3 percent to 4 percent to raise revenue, as the state faces a monumental budget crisis.
To settle the differences, Quinn has lobbied members of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, a consortium of 272 Chicago-area mayors, to back his 1 percent income tax surcharge by offering them a portion of the $3.1 billion it's expected to raise to offset what they'd lose in income tax proceeds, said David Bennett, executive director of the caucus.
Quinn spokesman Bob Reed would not confirm the governor offered such a trade-off.
While the spokesman didn't confirm the offer, The Capitol Fax blog's Rich Miller wrote on Monday that he saw this coming, adding that he "told subscribers [this] would happen the day after Gov. Quinn unveiled his budget."
"It's been on the table all along," Miller writes.
Quinn's budget includes at least $300 million in cuts to cities and counties across the state, including $68 million from Chicago alone. The governor's office has talked tough on the budget cuts since Quinn announced them: in a separate story, budget spokeswoman Kelly Kraft told the Sun-Times, "The state has a $13 billion budget deficit and everyone needs to do their part. Tough decisions have to be made, and local municipalities are not immune."
But if the Sun-Times and CapFax reports are to be believed, cuts to municipalities are just another area in which Quinn doesn't seem entirely serious about cutting the budget deficit. His proposal for fiscal year 2011 includes $1.2 billion in spending cuts to schools, but immediately after announcing the cuts, he proposed the income tax increase as a means to offset them.
Just today, Quinn backed off a plan to increase fees at veterans' homes by around $400 a month, according to an AP report. He also changed his tune about laying off state troopers following a meeting with Mayor Daley, who was very opposed to the idea of Chicago Police being responsible for patrolling local expressways.
Meanwhile, mayors were lukewarm to the governor's offer, according to the Sun-Times.
If the tax hike doesn't go through, and cities have to swallow the budget cuts, caucus director David Bennett said, "mayors won't be shy about identifying who is responsible."