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posted: 6/1/2014 5:01 AM

Editorial: Demand pledges against lame-duck tax hikes

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

We all remember how the temporary increase in the Illinois state income tax came about in the first place.

It passed by razor-thin margins in a lame-duck session of the General Assembly between an election and the installation of new legislators (and departure of several old ones).

For anyone taking solace in the failure of advocates to push through legislation in this session to make the temporary tax increase permanent, don't be fooled.

The movement by governments to raise taxes is a relentless, ever-percolating thing. It's never really conquered. It takes only one referendum to pass to raise taxes, after all, even if seven referendums with the same question were defeated earlier.

We could be wrong, but we believe as sure as God made little green apples that the tax question will come up again after the November elections, and it won't matter who wins the elections, because it won't be the new legislators who will be voting or the new governor who will be signing any bills. It will be the old legislators and the old governor -- the ones we have in office right now, only they will not be encumbered by the nuisance of voter reaction.

Perhaps we are wrong about that. But if we are, it won't be because proponents of tax increases wouldn't make use of the lame-duck session to pass it then. It will be only because they counted noses and decided they don't have the votes.

On Friday, Senate Republicans pledged to oppose any tax increase legislation that's raised in a lame-duck session.

"Outgoing lawmakers, who are no longer accountable to the voters, should not be approving such controversial legislation, especially tax increases," said Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont.

No doubt, they are motivated at least in part by politics. It will be a good campaign issue for them to run on in the November elections.

But to this point, it doesn't change the landscape all that much anyway. Pledge or no pledge, it would have been unusual for any of them to vote for a tax increase.

The real pledges need to come from Democratic legislators, the ones who own the key votes on this issue. Especially the ones who effectively killed an attempt this spring to pass an increase by telling their leadership they wouldn't vote for it.

If they wouldn't vote for it now, they shouldn't vote for it in a lame-duck session either.

We ask that they make that pledge, and whether they provide it will be a consideration when we make our endorsements.

The public should ask for that same pledge, and whether legislative candidates provide it should be a consideration when voters cast their ballots.

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