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updated: 10/7/2010 5:27 PM

65th House hopefuls at odds over income, sales tax increases

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An issue that clearly sets political newcomer Wendy Gruen apart from 65th District house State Rep. Rosemary Mulligan is whether either would support income or sales tax increases to solve the state's budget crisis.

Gruen is for it; Mulligan is not.

"Clearly the first step is continuing budget cuts to make sure that we have cleaned the budget of programs no longer necessary, we have consolidated departments as much as possible, and those types of cost-cutting and efficiency measures obviously are number one," said Gruen, a Democrat from Des Plaines and a certified financial planner. "But there's no way that we can balance the budget without increased revenues."

Mulligan, a Republican serving her ninth term in the General Assembly, said she is against raising the income tax.

"You take away the peoples' ability to have discretionary spending and you take business discretionary spending away, I think we'll lose business in Illinois," said the veteran legislator from Des Plaines. "If you don't have it (discretionary spending), you won't turn the economy."

Gruen said she would support a combination of income and sales tax increases, as well as expanding the sales tax to include service sector businesses.

"We have one of the highest sales tax rates, but one of the smallest bases," Gruen said. "Expanding sales tax to cover services, because we are increasingly a service-based economy, makes sense to me."

She said she would support a slight decrease in the sales tax rate if the service industry were included.

Mulligan said she would rather eliminate wasteful state programs than raise taxes.

"I would eliminate every program that doesn't meet a ratio that says that the services provided to the public are worth that program being left in," she said. "And then I would take a good hard look at what's left in the budget and what we need."

She also argues that a sales tax increase would be regressive, burdening those who can least afford it.

"An income tax increase is more fair, if you do it that way," she added. "But I'm not sure that I would be willing to be for an income tax increase until we see what happens when we go back. That's certainly not my theory of how we'll bring the economy back."

The 65th District includes portions of Maine, Elk Grove, Niles, and Norwood Park townships, and portions of Des Plaines, Park Ridge, Niles, Mount Prospect, Arlington Heights, Rosemont, Norridge, Harwood Heights, and Chicago.