Sunday, February 11, 2007

Watch your pocketbooks - Coalition offers plan to raise taxes to help schools, pensions

A 67% increase in your income taxes looks to be on its way. The following story is posted on the Students First website.

Coalition offers plan to raise taxes to help schools, pensions


Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A coalition of Illinois lawmakers and interest groups tried to jumpstart debate over school funding Thursday by introducing a plan to raise state taxes.

They want to raise income taxes by two percentage points, to 5 percent, and impose a new sales tax on services, such as hair cuts or lawn care. Those increases would be partly offset by cuts in property taxes and income tax breaks for the poor.

Supporters said only the top 40 percent of Illinois taxpayers would see any net increase.

They estimate the plan would generate $5 billion that could be used to increase school funding and shore up state pension systems.

Similar tax plans have been discussed before without generating enough legislative support to pass. And teachers, parents, lawmakers and business groups have complained for decades about the school-funding system, to no avail.

But the critics hope this year will be different.

''I think the political will is there,'' said the sponsor, Sen. James Meeks, D-Chicago.

Lawmakers won't have to face the voters again for nearly two years. Democrats have a larger majority than ever in the Legislature. State finances are in disarray, removing any hope of getting significantly more school money through normal channels. Supporters have spent years discussing a ''tax swap'' and building support for the concept.

The biggest hurdle could be Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who opposes a tax increase and early in his administration ruled out expanding sales taxes to cover services.

Blagojevich has suggested privatizing the state lottery to raise money for schools.

But that would generate nothing for government pension systems, which are billions of dollars short of the money they'll eventually need to pay retirees.

Meeks predicted supporters would be able to find enough votes to override any veto.

He was joined at a Statehouse news conference by the Illinois Federation of Teachers, Voices for Illinois Children, several Urban Leagues chapters, the A-plus Illinois Coalition and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

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