Quinn was put in an extremely awkward position by his budget director, who indicated to an out-of-state reporter that the state’s income taxes would be increased to 5 percent from its current 3 percent come January. Democrats were predictably stunned by the political stupidity of such a thing, and Republicans were predictably foaming at the mouth with outrage. The virulently anti-tax Brady quickly scheduled a press conference and we all knew what was coming: Unadulterated vitriol.
The governor explained to reporters that his budget guru had been “misconstrued.” Raising the income tax to 5 percent wasn’t his plan, Quinn declared, vowing to veto any tax hike increase above one percentage point.
But in between the defenses, the governor engaged in a full-throttled attack on Brady for proposing to cut education by 10 percent as part of Brady’s across-the-board budget reduction plan. Quinn claimed Brady’s proposed billion dollar slash would force the layoffs of “thousands of teachers,” crowd classrooms to the breaking point and, most importantly, cause property taxes to “skyrocket.” You could barely count to three in between Quinn’s warnings about how Brady would force property taxes through the roof.
“I’m a person who wants to hold down property taxes,” Quinn said. “If we want a growing economy, we cannot have politicians from Bloomington running around Illinois telling people before an election nothing is going to happen as far as tax reform when it comes to supporting education, but then after the election presiding over the biggest property tax in Illinois history.”
“I don’t want to see these local property taxes go up,” he said moments later. “You’ve got to be careful of these apostles of ‘no tax.’ When they talk they have their fingers crossed because they know the local government is going to raise the property tax on people.”
And he wasn’t finished. “I know that there’s going to be false prophets running around Illinois saying, ‘We don’t have to do anything, just stand still, cut the budget of state government for education by ten percent.’ Make sure that everybody knows what this fellow is talking about. He wants to cut the school budget in Illinois, the education budget, by ten percent. How are you going to fund the schools?”
Yeah, he laid it on pretty darned thick.
And considering the position Quinn was in, the property tax angle might not have been a bad push-back. People are probably more upset about the property tax than any other tax in the state. If he has to divert attention from his own tax hike, that’s the way to go. There is also little doubt that large, permanent cuts to education and local government will eventually lead to property tax hikes.
Then again, the negative messages pushed by Quinn apparently haven’t worked all that well. The latest Rasmussen poll has Brady with a seven point, 44-37 lead, despite spending $2 million or so on viciously anti-Brady TV advertising already.
More ominously, the poll of 750 likely voters taken July 26 found that a big chunk of Quinn’s “must get” vote is now seriously considering voting for a third party candidate. And there may be plenty of those to choose from this year.
A staggering 23 percent of African-Americans, 19 percent of moderates, 14 percent of Democrats and women and 10 percent of liberals chose “Some other candidate” in the poll. Just one of those demographics – moderates – was in double digits in Rasmussen’s June 7 poll. Quinn’s advertising has been so crushingly negative (which tends to push people away) and his job performance has been so utterly abominable lately that people are apparently heading for the exit doors.
That isn’t happening to Brady. His natural base, Republicans, conservatives, men, whites and people making over $100K a year are all still in the single digits on the “Some other candidate” response. Just 3 percent of Republicans are thinking of straying, for instance.
And it also isn’t happening to Quinn’s fellow statewide Democrat, Alexi Giannoulias. Not a single one of those “must get” Democratic constituencies is in double-digits on Rasmussen’s “Some other candidate” response for the U.S. Senate campaign.
Pat Quinn’s worst enemy has always been Pat Quinn, and it’s no different now.
Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com.