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updated: 1/26/2011 7:09 PM

Edgar: State needed a tax hike

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  • Former Gov. Jim Edgar speaks at Elmhurst College Wednesday about fiscal responsibility in Illinois.

       Former Gov. Jim Edgar speaks at Elmhurst College Wednesday about fiscal responsibility in Illinois.
    Tanit jarusan | Staff Photographer

 
By Kerry Lester
Politics and Projects Writer

To get Illinois out of its current budget mess, taxes needed to be raised, former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar told a suburban audience Wednesday.

Edgar, speaking at Elmhurst College's annual governmental forum, said he was "taken aback" by Illinois Democrats' courage to push for a 2 percentage point income tax hike in the final days of the veto session in January.

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Saying that Democrats have likely "used up all of their courage," Edgar, who was governor from 1990 to 1998, said more efforts to cut spending and put the state on a "fiscal diet" will have to come from both sides of the aisle, along with cooperation from the governor's office.

Hard cuts to both Medicaid and education, the latter which Edgar called a sort of "sacred cow," must be done in a bipartisan manner, he said.

"If we're going to get out of this mess, we're all going to have to swallow and do some things we don't want to do."

He noted that Gov. Pat Quinn, as the chief officer of the state, has to take the lead.

Edgar gave Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, "a lot of credit" for talking about the need to raise income taxes on the campaign trail, but said the governor needs to say no to spending more.

"He can't however, go on creating new programs."

The state's financial troubles -- a $13 billion budget hole and piles of unpaid bills to schools and social service agencies -- started long before the recession, Edgar noted.

"This was not a problem just caused by the Democrats. This started first with a Republican governor, and then a Democratic governor made it a lot worse. It went through both parties. ... The legislature went right along."

Unlike Edgar, suburban Republicans have been vocal in objecting to the tax hike.

Sen. Dan Duffy, a Lake Barrington Republican, has called the legislation the "nuclear bomb of job bills."

Sen. Kirk Dillard, of Hinsdale, noted Wednesday that "with all due respect to Gov. Edgar, I voted no. Cuts and restructuring and improving the state's business climate, we should go there first before looking at new revenue."

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