PI Original Angela Caputo Wednesday February 3rd, 2010, 1:36pm

Quinn Calls HB 174 A "Good Mechanism" For Tax Reform

Gov. Pat Quinn sent another signal that he's warming up to Sen. James Meeks' tax reform proposal last night, calling HB 174 a "good mechanism" for both modernizing the tax structure and generating desperately-needed revenue.

It looks like Gov. Pat Quinn is really warming up to Sen. James Meeks' (D-Chicago) tax reform plan, House Bill 174, which he supported at the very last-minute during the 2009 session. When we caught up with the governor last night at the Allegro Hotel, he spoke highly of the measure -- which raises the income tax rate by two percentage points, provides low-income tax credits and property tax relief, and extends the sales tax to certain services -- calling it a "good mechanism" for both modernizing the tax structure and generating desperately-needed revenue.

Because the bill already passed the Senate, the Illinois House could take it up at any time, Quinn noted. "The House members, they may amend it here and there, but that's OK," he told us. "If we can get the basic idea of reducing property taxes, of making sure we have a fair tax system ... and raise enough money to pay our bills, that's something we need to do." Watch:

Last night Quinn echoed his remarks during last week's WVON gubernatorial debate where he dubbed Meeks' proposal "the right way" to generate enough new revenue to pay the state's bills and invest in Illinois' woefully under-funded education system. That the governor is talking more openly and consistently about HB 174, sometimes even bringing it up himself, is certainly encouraging, especially as his administration readies its own FY 2011 budget proposal due next month.  It will be interesting to see whether he embraces the bill's provisions in his spending plan or simply reintroduces his original proposal (to raise the income tax rate from 3 to 4.5 percent and triple the personal exemption).

We also ran into State Rep. Will Burns (D-Chicago) and asked him what it is going to take to pass an income tax hike this session. Burns emphasized the need for "direct action." "If we want 174, if we want a revenue solution, we're going to have to start using the tactics of the Civil Rights Movement to make it happen," he says. "We need some sit-ins. We need some student walk-outs. We need some boycotts. We need some office take-overs. We need people who are really going to be affected by these cuts to become engaged in the process." Watch:

With the primary now behind us, the Responsible Budget Coalition is gearing up for more of the same sort of activism that shut down the statehouse and closed off a portion of Chicago's Loop last summer. They're beginning with a rally in Springfield on February 17. We'll be watching closely to see if the latest round of teacher layoffs, tuition hikes, and human service cuts will finally be the wake up call for the masses to get on board.

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