PI Original Josh Kalven Friday September 4th, 2009, 2:39pm

Hynes' Botched Line Of Attack

In the short time he's been a gubernatorial candidate, Dan Hynes has repeatedly tried to paint Gov. Pat Quinn as a waffler, a vacillator, a flip-flopper. Then two days ago, the tables were turned. Following Hynes' announcement that he would seek to place a progressive income ...

In the short time he's been a gubernatorial candidate, Dan Hynes has repeatedly tried to paint Gov. Pat Quinn as a waffler, a vacillator, a flip-flopper. Then two days ago, the tables were turned. Following Hynes' announcement that he would seek to place a progressive income tax referendum on the November 2010 ballot, the governor pointed out that the comptroller had previously opposed a similar referendum pushed by Quinn in 2004.  "Maybe he's flipped and he's flopped over on our side," Quinn said. "I'm glad he has."  

The Hynes campaign responded by aggressively denying Quinn's flip-flop charge.  "[H]is bizarre claim that Dan has changed positions on a progressive income tax is patently false," spokesman Matt McGrath said in a release yesterday.  By the end of the day, the Quinn campaign resurfaced with an October 23, 2003 Kane County Chronicle article that reported the following:

Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes opposes a proposed state constitutional amendment that would double the state income tax paid by the rich.  

While touting his U.S. Senate bid on Wednesday, Hynes touched on the proposal that Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn endorsed earlier this week. [...]

"I wouldn't advocate a tax increase at the state level," Hynes said.

Instead, Hynes, 35, backed securing additional federal funds for state infrastructure improvements.

"Patently false," huh?

To be clear: We're happy to see Hynes getting behind the idea of a progressive income tax in Illinois.  Lord knows we need more high-profile elected officials supporting reforms of our regressive tax structure.  But as a challenger, if you're going to focus your attacks on the incumbent's shifting positions, it's probably not the best idea to base your budget alternative on a proposal you previously opposed.  Just saying ...

By the way, you can download Hynes' detailed budget plan here or read it below (click the button in the upper righthand corner to expand):

In our previous post, we estimated that Hynes' plan to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Illinois residents would not start generating new revenue until FY 2012.  But according to the document above, the money would arrive in the middle of FY 2011:

By implementing a half-year of the progressive income tax, additional casino licenses, fund sweeps and modest natural revenue growth, the Hynes Plan allows the state to put a halt to the runaway budget deficit. It holds the deficit steady with a $2.3 billion deficit in FY11, until the full-year of the progressive income tax is phased-in. Additionally, the Plan calls for the state to make full pension payments in FY11 and allows for a $150 million increase in education spending.

A $2.3 billion shortfall is still quite large and will wreak more havoc among the state's social service providers.  So rather than carry that deficit over to FY 2012, why not couple the longer-term progressive income tax proposal with a temporary tax hike along the lines of what the General Assembly considered this spring?  More on that idea next week.

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