Ryan's Budget Plan Boosts Education, Technology Governor, Lawmakers Split over Tax-Relief Proposals

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SPRINGFIELD - Legislative leaders said they will insist on cutting Illinois taxes this spring, despite Gov. George Ryan's admonition Wednesday against pandering to voters in an election year.

Ryan's warning came as he presented his $46.5 billion budget, which runs the gamut from a record increase for education, to a whopping $2 billion new technology spending program, to reinforcing the safety net for those who fall through the cracks of Illinois' vaunted economic expansion.

"I do not believe it is in the state's best interest, nor is it in the best interest of our people, to engage in a bidding war for the affections of voters," Ryan said as he proposed an 8.2 percent increase over last year's budget. "I will not give away the store just to soothe election year anxieties."

"I don't want to get into any bidding war," retorted Illinois Republican Leader Lee Daniels of Elmhurst, "but I think we need to provide tax relief for Illinois citizens."

Those citizens already will receive $480 million in tax relief from programs approved by lawmakers over the last two years, Ryan noted. That includes the final year of phasing in a doubling of the personal income tax exemption; a tuition tax credit for parents who send their children to private schools; and a corporate cut in the way Illinois collects sales taxes.

It's not enough, said legislators of both political parties.

But lawmakers have been unable to decide among a myriad of tax- cut proposals, even though Ryan said he remains open to some sort of affordable tax-relief agreement.

Suggestions include reducing the state income tax; a back-to- school sales tax "holiday" on clothing; doubling the income tax credit for property taxes; eliminating the sales tax on gas or diesel fuel; credits for day care, prescription drugs, college tuition and rent; and a cut in unemployment tax paid by businesses.

"I've got 32 Republicans that want a tax cut, and I've got 47 different tax cut ideas," lamented Senate President James "Pate" Philip of Wood Dale. "It's hard to get all my members on the same page, but we will work on something."

Ryan also drew praise and criticism for his proposal on how to spend Illinois' share of the national tobacco lawsuit settlement.

Republican Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka and Democratic Comptroller Dan Hynes were among those lauding his plan to bank the first $377 million of the money as a rainy-day fund. …