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TCB in Springfield

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jan 7, 2011 2:30PM

The State Legislature has been all blades to the grindstone since reconvening in Springfield. It looks like they're on the verge of passing two major changes once the Senate reconvenes next week. First, Gov. Quinn and General Assembly leaders reached a deal on an increase in the state income tax by up to 75 percent and an increase on the cigarette tax of $1 per pack. But the more historic vote was the state House's vote to abolish the death penalty. The vote comes a decade after then-Gov. George Ryan placed a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois; 20 men on Illinois' Death Row have been exonerated.

The House actually voted twice on abolishing the death penalty yesterday. The first vote failed to garner enough support for passage. after some lobbying, several representatives switched their votes the second time around, while others failed to vote, giving the House the necessary 60 votes needed for passage. State Senator Kwame Raoul, one of the bill's sponsors, told CBS2 that he feels there is enough support in the Senate for passage when they reconvene next week. After news of the House vote broke, the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty released a brief statement asking supporters to call their state senator to vote for passage.

But it's the proposed income tax hike that is the bitter pill to swallow. Under the compromise hammered out by Gov. Quinn and the legislature's floor leaders, the state income tax rate would increase from 3 percent to 5.25 percent. The increase would be for a four-year period. After that, the income tax rate would go back down to 3.75 percent.

Quinn is hoping that the income tax increase, the cigarette tax increase and a proposed corporate tax hike will erase the state's $15 billion budget deficit. It also appears to be a necessary evil, after years of passing the buck on the state's bills, compounded by the possibility that the newly sworn in GOP-led House won't be offering bailouts to states.