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Ill. Governor, Citing 'Scandalous' School Needs, Presses Tax Boost

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Springfield, Ill--Gov. James Thompson, testifying before a rarely convened committee of the whole state Senate recently, urged support of his $1.6-billion income-tax increase to bolster education and other programs beset by unrelenting budget cuts.

The Governor's tax plan--which calls for a 60-percent jump in individual income taxes and a 40-percent boost in corporate taxes for the next four years--is now at the amendment stage in the Senate.

Although two witnesses opposed the Governor's proposals, many special interests--including a member of the state board of education--joined Mr. Thompson in appealing for passage of the record tax increase.

Economic Base Changing

"Our economic base is permanently changing and we must fight to survive," the Governor told senators. "But we can't do it without advances in education, and you can't advance education by cutting the budget below the level of the year before."

Without a tax increase, Mr. Thompson has said, state funding for education will fall by $206 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1. The state board of education has approved a budget request that includes $224 million in new revenue for local school districts.

Although he declined to specify how much new money he would allocate to schools, Mr. Thompson said more is desperately needed. "I see school districts with their back to the wall ..., teachers laid off ..., schools consolidated," he said. "I see a school system which is not now in the process of preparing our children and grandchildren for the employment of the future and that's a scandal. I see children who know how to play Donkey Kong and Pacman and Frogger, but who are not computer literate and that's a scandal. And as I travel the nation, I see states around us who are moving ahead in education, states poorer than we are, because they know where the future lies, and that's a scandal."

Louis Mervis, a businessman and state board of education member, voiced a similar theme. "Illinois will be a second-rate state if we can't educate our young people so they can be productive members of the workforce," he said. "And I must candidly tell you that I would think twice before locating one of my companies in a state that would let its educational system--and its future--crumble while everyone paid it lip service instead of dollars and cents."

Opposing the tax increase, James Tobin of Taxpayers United of Illinois said the increase would "provide jobs to cronies of the Governor" and help "teacher unions steal even more taxpayer money for the benefit of bureaucrats."

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