Tom Kacich: Frerichs talking tougher on tax increase
Sen. Mike Frerichs, who voted in January 2011 to raise Illinois' personal income-tax rate by 67 percent, isn't saying that he'll vote to extend the income-tax increase permanently.
A vote is expected in the Legislature this month on the tax increase, which Gov. Pat Quinn says is necessary to prevent major cuts to education funding and state services. Frerichs' district mate, state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, has said she'll support extending the tax rate.
But Jakobsson isn't running for re-election, and Frerichs is the Democratic candidate for state treasurer. He sounds more conservative today than he did three years ago, when the "temporary" increase was approved. He justified voting for the increase because he said it would stave off cuts to the University of Illinois and social-service providers.
But now, "Tax Hike Mike," as Republican groups have labeled Frerichs, sounds different.
He said he would "like to see some changes" made to Quinn's tax-increase plan.
Asked if he is opposed to maintaining the personal income-tax rate at 5 percent, Frerichs said, "Right now, I would like to explore alternatives, one of which we have talked about in Danville for years, and that is gaming revenue," Frerichs said. "That would not only provide more revenue for the state, but I think it would be a jobs bill in Vermilion County. And it would help us raise revenue from outside of our state as well.
"I am encouraging us to look at other sources and other ways of meeting our state obligations."
Frerichs' response is similar to what many of his Senate colleagues are saying. They say that a gaming bill, a smaller tax increase or property-tax relief should be part of the deal. That suggests that rounding up votes for the tax increase this year — five months before Election Day — will be much tougher than it was in January 2011.
Asked whether he would support temporarily extending the 5 percent rate for a few more years, or increasing it to a smaller percentage, he said, "I have heard lots of rumors, but I haven't seen any bills."
Davis bill could get Senate vote
Just a few days after using part of the weekly Republican address to hit Senate Democrats for their failure to move his Hire More Heroes Act, Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, may be getting his wish.
Several publications reported that the Senate might take up Davis' legislation — a minor revision of President Obama's Affordable Care Act — as soon as this week.
Davis' bill passed the House 406-1. In the Republican response to Obama's weekly address, Davis said, "Eight weeks ago, the House passed HR 3474, my bill that would incentivize small businesses to hire more of our veterans. Americans are still waiting for President Obama and Senate Democrats to act."
His legislation would allow employers to leave veterans out of the 50-person threshold for providing Obamacare's employer mandate, provided that the veterans already have health insurance.
The Senate version of Davis' bill has 38 co-sponsors, including two Democrats.
Davis got off a nice line Saturday at the annual Lincoln Day dinner of the Champaign County Republican Party.
Talking about the negative advertising that soon will pervade the radio and television airwaves in central Illinois, Davis warned that "you're going to see a bombardment of advertisements coming out for and against us all."
He related a discussion he had had at home.
"I'm looking forward to my kids, my 13-year-old boys, watching commercials once again, and when I go to try to discipline them, they look at me and say something like they did last time like, 'Dad, we don't have to listen to you anymore.'
"'Why is that, sons?'
"'Well, because the TV just told us that you're wrong for America.'"
Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten doesn't have an opponent — yet — in this November's general election, but he's begun raising money just in case.
His first donor? $2,500 from Republican gubernatorial candidate (and multimillionaire) Bruce Rauner.
In his campaign disclosure report for the period that ended March 31, Hulten reported a modest $4,445 on hand. Since then, though, Champaign County Democratic Party Chair Al Klein has said that defeating Hulten is "job one" after mistakes were found in the county's primary election returns, compiled by Hulten's office.
"I've been told that the Democratic Party chairman considers me his top priority in 2014 and so I'm raising money," Hulten said. "I'm taking it seriously."
He said he hadn't anticipated raising money until the flap over miscounts in a number of bottom-of-the-ticket races on the Democratic ballot.
"There are some people in the Democratic Party who are talking about targeting me for defeat and I need to raise enough money that I can be competitive," Hulten said.
Klein said Monday that he's still looking for the right candidate to take on Hulten. That candidate would have to be slated by the local party, then collect a small number of petition signatures.
"I've got to get someone by the end of the month," Klein said. "There are plenty of people who are interested, but we've got to find the right candidate. Raising money should not be a problem, but our candidate has got to be prepared to do battle with the voter suppression strategy of the national Republican Party."
Two years ago, when Hulten ran for the first time, he defeated Democrat Charlie Smyth, 54 percent to 46 percent. Hulten raised more than $65,000 for that race.
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at email@example.com.