� A group of state lawmakers has revived a
long-sought plan to fundamentally change the way Illinois pays
for education, shifting the burden away from local property
taxes and onto the state income tax.
Proponents of the
plan say it will provide more money for schools and a more
even-handed dispersal of the funds. But many legislators, as
well as Gov. Rod Blagojevich, are expected to balk at its
increase of income taxes.
The bill, introduced by Sen.
James Meeks, D-Chicago, would increase school funding by
raising the state's personal and corporate income tax and
expanding the sales tax to include consumer services, such as
haircuts and lawn care. At the same time, it would decrease
property taxes and pay down the state's pension
Education groups and lawmakers have roundly
criticized Illinois' existing system for school funding for
being inequitable, as school districts in the wealthiest areas
of the state spend two to five times more per student as
school districts in the poorest areas. Studies have shown it
to be the largest such gap in the nation.
The state also has come under fire for not
picking up enough of Illinois' educational tab, most of which
is paid for by local property taxes. Illinois ranks 47th in
the country in the state's share of K-12 education costs.
Meeks' plan would commit more than $3.3 billion per
year to schools statewide, phased in over four years.
More than $2 billion of the new revenue would go
toward increasing the per-pupil funding for each school
district in Illinois, which is currently about $1,000 less
than what the state's own advisory body recommends.
The rest of the new school funds would go toward
specific programs, such as special education.
Blagojevich has been a consistent opponent of such a
tax source swap, having promised in both his gubernatorial
election campaigns to veto any increase in general taxes.
"We agree there's a need to continue increasing
funding for education," said Rebecca Rausch, spokeswoman for
Blagojevich. " � We also agree there's a problem in Illinois'
tax structure. Wealthy corporations are paying a third less
than they were in the 1970s. The proposal announced today
doesn't fix (that) imbalance."
Ralph Martire, executive
director of the Center for Tax and Budget and Accountability,
whose organization was instrumental in drafting Meeks' bill,
hailed it as a rational and responsible approach to fairer
school funding and fiscal health.
In all, the bill
would create more than $9 billion in new state revenue: $5.7
billion from raising the personal income tax, now 3 percent,
to 5 percent; $900 million from increasing the corporate
income tax from 5 percent to 8 percent; and $2.5 billion from
expanding the sales tax to consumer services.
would provide $2.7 billion in property tax relief and $900
million tax relief to middle and low-income families to offset
the increases in income and sales taxes.
Martire, the wealthiest 40 percent of Illinoisans would see a
net increase in their state and local tax burden of about 1.2