For months Gov. Pat Quinn has campaigned on the need to make permanent the temporary tax hike the Illinois General Assembly passed in 2011. Under state law, the majority of the 2011 tax increase will sunset in January 2015. Quinn wants to reverse that.
He claims the state is out of money and there is nothing left to cut or reform. And without making the tax hike permanent, he says, education, Medicaid and the state’s infrastructure will all suffer budget cuts.
From Quinn’s budget speech: “If action is not taken to stabilize our revenue code…extreme and radical cuts will be imposed on education and critical public services. Cuts that will starve our schools and result in mass teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and higher property taxes.” 
But Quinn seems to have forgetten all that. He’s suddenly found hundreds of millions of dollars in state funds to help bail out Chicago’s nearly insolvent pension systems.
He’s proposing to increase the share of state income taxes local governments receive as part of a revenue sharing agreement between the state and local governments.
Quinn’s willingness to share state income isn’t an act of benevolence. Instead, he’s in a political bind and trying to find a way out.
The governor is being asked to sign a Chicago pension bill that he knows offers no real reforms and no way to pay for itself. If he signs the bill, Quinn will give Mayor Rahm Emanuel cover to raise Chicago property taxes by $750 million over five years.
But that runs in direct contrast to what Quinn  promised in his budget address just a few weeks ago: tax relief to all Illinoisans. In his speech he said: “My comprehensive tax reform plan starts with providing every homeowner in Illinois with a guaranteed $500 property tax refund every year. … The property tax is a complicated, unfair tax, hitting middle-class families the hardest. …For too long, Illinois has … overburdened its property taxpayers.”
Quinn is stuck. If he signs the Chicago pension bill he’ll break his promise of property tax relief. If he doesn’t sign the bill, he’ll upset the proponents of the pension “fix.”
His offer of additional state income tax funds for Chicago is his solution to that dilemma.
Quinn’s act is one of desperation. He’s traveling the state trying to muster support to keep taxes high. In some cases he’s threatening to cut education funds if he doesn’t get support for his tax plan. In others, he’s promising mayors more money in exchange for making the tax hike permanent.
Some would call this a bribe. Others, extortion. Yet others would simply call it politics.
In Illinois, it’s called the Chicago Way.
No one should be falling for Quinn’s ploy. Either the state is broke, or it isn’t.
Illinoisans shouldn’t be forced to bail out Chicago – especially if it’s just to provide cover for Quinn’s political miscalculations.