RANTOUL — Gov. Pat Quinn indicated Saturday that he's open to negotiating Illinois' income-tax rate and might accept something less than the 5 percent individual tax rate he's been campaigning for all spring.
Quinn made his remarks to reporters following a groundbreaking ceremony for a $32 million upgrade of facilities at Lincoln's Challenge Academy in Rantoul.
"We're working on a budget that's balanced, that pays the bills, that pays for the things we want to do as a state, that helps our families. We can negotiate that. That's part of political life," he said. "But we've got to make sure that we have adequate revenue to pay for the programs that are vital to everyday people and their schools, and making sure that we take good care of people's safety."
Asked whether extending the current 5 percent income-tax rate is dead, Quinn said, "No, I think we have to work hard on getting the job done in a balanced way. Revenue has to equal expenditures."
The current 5 percent income-tax rate on individuals is set to expire Dec. 31 and drop to 3.75 percent. Quinn and others Democrats have said that the resulting loss of revenue would be devastating to education, public safety and other state services.
But House Speaker Michael Madigan said last week that he was "significantly" short of the 60 votes needed to permanently extend the 5 percent rate, which was passed in 2011 as a temporary measure.
The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn next Saturday, meaning that supporters of the higher tax rate have six legislative days to make a deal.
The governor's office Saturday released a statement saying that without the current tax rate, higher education would lose $304 million, including $82.6 million less to the University of Illinois and $5.5 million less to Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
Quinn said Saturday that "we're always willing to negotiate with members of the Legislature on different parts of the budget, but the bottom line is, we must have an adequate budget to ... provide good education, to make sure we have veterans programs for those who are returning from very dangerous assignments, and to make sure we have public safety and health care.
"I think we saw in the vote yesterday (a 107-5 tally against a so-called "doomsday" budget that would have imposed $1.4 billion in budget cuts) that we must have those investments. They're very important. Nobody in the Legislature wants to cut back on those fundamental investments, but we have to pay for them. And finding a way to pay for them we'll work on in the coming week."
Quinn said he would be working on tax and budget issues over the Memorial Day weekend; lawmakers will return to Springfield Monday afternoon.
"This past week, I talked to dozens and dozens of legislators. I'll continue to do that this weekend and all next week," Quinn said.