Quinn answers your questions on income tax, other issues
We asked readers for questions they'd like us to ask Gov. Pat Quinn. A lot of them asked us to question him about the income tax increase, which they thought would be temporary when it was approved in 2011. We did, and here's what he said on that and other questions.
How can you justify making the 5 percent income tax permanent when you promised it would be a temporary tax only?
"No I did not. The whole campaign I did not say it was temporary. The legislature decided it wanted to do this on a temporary basis. When I signed the bill, that very day I signed it, I said, 'it's day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year to determine where we stand and where our economy stands.' We have made a very good come back. Our state has had the steepest decline in unemployment of any state in the union. Unemployment is down, job creation is up. Our policies are working."
How will you work with House Speaker Mike Madigan and leaders in Springfield to get things done?
"We passed the biggest public works bill in the history of Illinois in a bipartisan bill within 10 weeks of becoming governor after a 10-year wait. We have been able to pass workers' compensation in a bipartisan way, same with unemployment insurance reform, Medicaid reform and restructuring. I think we've done some big things. We've got to do more."
"I don't see eye to eye with Mike Madigan on every single issue, I'll guarantee that. He was really not for improving the value of the earned income tax credit, he didn't think that was necessary. I insisted on that and we got it done ... When it comes to the speaker of the house, he can be resistant to some things and you have to reason with him and other leaders. Overall though, on the pension reform we had all four leaders together. That was major fiscal reform to get that done and everybody worked together. We've got to do that more often."
"And one more, now that I think about it. Mike Madigan, I will say this on his behalf, a year ago if we were sitting here, Illinois did not have marriage equality under the law. It passed the senate, it had to pass the house with 60 votes. I had a lot of legislators come in my office. Some said 'yes,' some said 'no,' some said 'hell no.' I'm happy that Mike Madigan voted yes. I think he voted the right way ... Governors have to lead. I had to give a lot of legislators counsel to vote yes on that bill."
If the problem in solving the pension crisis is the Illinois constitution, then why not change the constitution?
"Well I've done that. We passed the recall amendment after I became governor. It took a lot of work. You have to get three-fifths approval of both houses. It wasn't easy, but we did it. Then they put it on the ballot and three-fifths of the voters have to vote for it."
"I would not move in that direction until we hear what the Supreme Court has to say. Changing the constitution is a serious matter."
How do you respond to criticism of your handling of problems at the Illinois Department of Transportation?
"I have an inspector general who is independent. I signed legislation to give him the authority to cover hiring issues. I got a report from the inspector general and I wasn't pleased to read that the department and the secretary were not following the hiring procedures outlined by law and outlined by me in executive orders. I replaced the secretary. The inspector general had a number of recommendations, I carried out every single one. And I went beyond those recommendations setting up a merit board at IDOT."
"When the new secretary -- who is a decorated war veteran, comes from the suburbs, went to West Point, was first in her class, a Rhodes Scholar, served in Iraq -- I put her at IDOT and I said, 'Make sure all the rules are followed,' and that's exactly what she's doing." "That's what leadership is to me. When something goes wrong, you take responsibility and make people accountable. I do think there is quite a difference with what we are reading about right now (related to issues with nursing homes Rauner was involved in) ... There is a difference. The other side calls our side a lot of names, but we take responsibility, they don't."
Readers gave us too many questions to include in our meeting with Quinn, so we followed up with his staff, which provided these additional answers to questions from readers.
What is his position on taxing retirement income?
Gov. Quinn opposes it and has made it clear that he will never tax retirement income.
What are his ideas to attract businesses to Illinois and prevent current ones from leaving?
The governor has laid out a bold jobs agenda that will continue to drive economic growth in Illinois and put more people back to work. This includes providing tax cuts to businesses for job training. Employers know that highly skilled workers are the key to their success in this competitive economy. By lowering the cost to business of training workers, this tax cut makes it easier for them to create new jobs. And it ensures our workers have the skills to drive a 21st century economy.
In addition, the governor has proposed lowering the LLC fee from $500 to $39, the lowest in the nation, to help small businesses as they get started and encourage entrepreneurs to put more people to work. We must also continue to invest in our infrastructure to attract more companies, something he has made a priority since taking office. The governor enacted the largest infrastructure program in Illinois history, putting hundreds of thousands of people back to work to build roads, schools and bridges, and we have more work to do.
Lastly, we must invest in education and early childhood to build a strong economy with talented and well-educated workers, and that's why the governor has proposed the largest investment in the classroom in Illinois history and an innovative birth-to-five program focused on access to prenatal, early learning and parent support.
If you raise the minimum wage, are you then going to raise taxes to pay those wages?
No. In fact, 70 percent of our economy is based on consumer demand. Studies conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago show that an increase of $1 in the minimum wage generates about $2,800 in consumer spending per year, greatly improving purchasing power and strengthening the economy.
By increasing the Illinois minimum wage to $10 an hour, a half-million Illinois consumers will make an extra $4,800 a year and much of that extra income will be spent at local businesses on food, clothing and furniture, providing a strong boost to the local economy.
Nearly two-thirds of small-business owners support raising the federal minimum wage because they believe it will help the economy and, in turn, enable them to hire more workers, according to a poll conducted by the Small Business Majority. Leaders from large companies such as Costco, Starbucks and Stride Rite also have supported increasing the minimum wage as a way to reduce employee turnover and improve workers' productivity.
The Illinois minimum wage ($8.25) is less than half of the average U.S. hourly wage. A full-time minimum wage worker in Illinois makes about $17,000 annually, which is well below the Federal Poverty Threshold of $19,790 for a family of three. Raising the minimum wage is about dignity and decency -- it's the right thing to do.