Income tax talk
By Bethany Jaeger
Senate Democrats are considering ways to trim the budget at the same time they’re considering revenue ideas to help alleviate the $9 billion to $11 billion budget deficit. At least one revenue idea includes an increase in the state income tax by as much as 2 percentage points, which would bring the rate to 5 percent for individuals.
Sen. Donne Trotter, budget negotiator for the Senate Democrats, said that for every percentage point increase, the state could collect an extra $3.3 billion, meaning 1 percentage point wouldn't plug the expanding budget gap. “If you’re going to do something as dramatic as raise the income tax, you might as well make it workable. Let’s not just do it and still have a hole and have to come back and do it next year.”
Trotter said early internal discussions about changing the tax structure include establishing a progressive system that would levy a higher tax rate on people who made more money and giving tax credits to families who made less money.
He said the idea to grant tax credits to lower-income families would allow the legislature to get around having to change the state Constitution, which established a flat income tax rate. Illinois lawmakers would have to propose a constitutional amendment to levy the tax on a sliding scale based on ability to pay.
FutureGen still being considered by the Feds
By Jamey Dunn
The U.S. Department of Energy has not taken the proposed FutureGen plant in Mattoon off the table, but the overall plan and the details of the bureaucratic process remain in flux.
According to the New York Times, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said yesterday that he still is considering the Mattoon plant as part of a “modified” project that could include international partners. “We are taking, certainly, a fresh look at FutureGen, how it would fit into this expanded portfolio,” Chu was quoted as saying.
Illinois lawmakers have focused on the record of decision, a statement that says the plan for the Mattoon site has met all environmental standards for construction. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin recently called for Chu to sign the document so the project can move forward.
However, John Grasser, a spokesman for the Fossil Energy Division of the Department of Energy, said that being concerned with the record of decision at this point is “putting the cart before the horse.” Grasser said that the project must be resurrected before the record can be signed. He said that Chu is still open to the possibility of breathing new life into the project that was abandoned by former President George Bush's administration in January 2008. Grasser said that if the Mattoon site becomes part of a new plan, it could require a new record of decision and some administrative planning that will be worked out when, and if, the time comes.