PI Original Josh Kalven Monday October 12th, 2009, 2:01pm

IL-GOV: The Ad War Begins

Last week, Democratic gubernatorial challenger Dan Hynes launched his first TV ad, a spot that contrasted his tax plan with that put forth earlier this year by Gov. Pat Quinn.  As we noted, Hynes' piece included the false claim that Quinn supported a "50 percent tax ...

Last week, Democratic gubernatorial challenger Dan Hynes launched his first TV ad, a spot that contrasted his tax plan with that put forth earlier this year by Gov. Pat Quinn.  As we noted, Hynes' piece included the false claim that Quinn supported a "50 percent tax increase on every Illinois family."  In fact, the governor's original plan and the subsequent versions that he later supported all included varying forms of relief for low-earners. 

Over the weekend, the Quinn campaign released their own ad in response. Watch it here. (We'd embed it, but our YouTube functionality isn't working properly at the moment.)

Yesterday, Capitol Fax's Rich Miller responded that Quinn's ad is "more than a little misleading."  His explanation:

The “truth” is that Gov. Quinn did, indeed, propose income tax cuts for certain families. Quinn then abandoned that plan, flip-flopped around for a while and finally ended up supporting an income tax hike at the end of the session which cut nobody’s income taxes.

So, Quinn simply isn’t being totally honest here. Par for the course in a campaign ad, and exactly the “same old political game” that the governor rails against in his spot.

It's true that as the situation grew increasingly desperate in Springfield last May, Quinn eventually backed away from his original plan and attempted to throw his weight behind a variety of other proposals (some of which simply shielded low-earners from the tax increase, rather than cutting their taxes).  Indeed, over the course of the spring and summer, we repeatedly criticized the governor for strategic mistakes along the way. 

Nonetheless, the facts are these: Quinn attempted to build some progressivity into the state's regressive tax structure, the legislature opposed those efforts, and he unfortunately had no choice but to seek out further compromises.

What's also clear is that he never backed any proposal that amounted to a "50 percent tax increase on every Illinois family," as the Hynes campaign continues to claim.  The closest he came was in the waning days of the regular session when Quinn began working with the House Democrats on a temporary plan that would have raised the tax rate from 3 percent to 4.5 percent without hiking the personal exemption (which Quinn had proposed in his original budget).  But when the Tribune reported on the negotiations on May 29, the governor was still pushing to include some tax relief:

House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) said the standard personal exemption, which is now $2,000 per person, would not rise under the most recent draft of the legislation. Currie, the sponsor of the temporary hike, said there is discussion about increasing the earned income tax credit, which is a more targeted tax break for the working poor. But she cautioned that the negotiations are still ongoing.

The Quinn administration said it was still pressing for tax relief through efforts to increase the personal exemption, the earned income tax credit and property tax credits.

And by the time it advanced out of committee the next day, Quinn had successfully managed to get a permanent doubling of the Earned Income Tax Credit included -- thereby ensuring that the proposal wouldn't subject "every Illinois family" to a "50 percent tax increase." 

Full Disclosure: The SEIU Illinois State Council, which sponsors this website, has endorsed Pat Quinn in the Democratic primary for governor.

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