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Lieutenant gov breaks ranks on gross receipts tax
Quinn calls plan unfair, says it would hurt working class

March 22, 2007
SPRINGFIELD -- Gov. Blagojevich's bid to pass a controversial $6 billion business tax suffered a politically embarrassing blow Wednesday with the defection of his two-time running mate, Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn.

Quinn said he cannot support the governor's proposed gross receipts tax, a lynchpin of Blagojevich's 2008 state spending plan, because it is "regressive," unfairly targets the working class, and provides no tax relief.

"I really don't think this is a fair approach," Quinn said.

Instead, Quinn proposed a competing plan that would target untapped "corporate loopholes" that he said could generate as much as $2 billion a year to be split equally between schools, health insurance and tax relief.

"I'd hope we could go to Plan B, and come up with a tax fairness plan that incorporates some of the ideas I've expressed," the lieutenant governor said during an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.

One "loophole" Quinn said should be closed is a premium retailers earn for collecting state sales taxes. They keep 1.75 percent of sales taxes they collect, which costs the state "a couple hundred million dollars" per year, he said.

Quinn was not explicit in how much schools and health care would receive under his plan. But he said tax relief should consist of increasing the earned income tax credit and tying the standard exemption available to all taxpayers to the rate of inflation.

The lieutenant governor's remarks come at a sensitive time for Blagojevich as the governor tries to generate public and legislative support for his tax proposal, which business groups are aggressively seeking to block.

The governor appeared Tuesday with black ministers on the South Side, and said he was "on the side of the Lord" with his budget proposal because of its commitment to education and health care.

On Wednesday, the administration downplayed the significance of Quinn's proposal, but sidestepped questions about whether Blagojevich was disappointed the lieutenant governor wasn't out helping sell his plan.

"We anticipated that there would be people who objected," Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said. "That's what happens when you put a very bold and aggressive plan forward. But that won't impact our focus on building support and getting information out."

In another development that could complicate passage of a state budget, a top leader of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus told the Sun-Times that his group will withhold support for a budget unless it has four full days to review its details prior to a vote.

"We don't want a middle-of-the-night vote," said Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago), joint chairman of the caucus.

dmckinney@suntimes.com