Illinois Democrats Rush to Raise Income Taxes in Lame Duck Session

  • January 05, 2011
  • By Josh Goodman
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Democratic leaders in the state legislature are working on a deal to raise the state's income tax rate before new lawmakers are sworn in January 12, the Chicago Tribune reports . Since taking over for Governor Rod Blagojevich in early 2009, Quinn has asked for an income tax hike to help Illinois cope with what may be the worst fiscal problems in any state. Quinn won a full term in office in November and Democrats retained their majorities in both houses of the legislature. But conventional wisdom is that the current lame duck session is the most politically plausible moment for the tax increase. After January 12, Republicans, who are skeptical of the tax increase, will have larger caucuses. Plus, lawmakers who are on their way out of office may not mind supporting a measure that comes with political risks for those who are sticking around. The negotiations center on how large the increase should be and what budget-cutting measures should be included to try to bring some Republican legislators on board-House Speaker Michael Madigan has said he wants any vote for the tax increase to be bipartisan.

Outgoing Governor Jim Gibbons fired Ken Mayer as director of the Nevada  Department of Wildlife on November 22. Now incoming Governor Brian Sandoval has given Mayer his old job back, the Associated Press reports . Sandoval named Mayer as acting director and he's also applying for the position on a permanent basis. Gibbons didn't offer any explanation for Mayer's firing, though Mayer had clashed with Gibbons' appointees on Nevada's Wildlife Commission. The Commission favors killing mountain lions and coyotes to boost deer populations, something Mayer opposes. Sandoval ousted Gibbons in a Republican primary in June on his way to being elected governor.

Just two months ago, Connecticut held elections for all 187 of its state legislative seats. Now the legislature already has nine vacancies that will have to be filled through special elections, the Hartford Courant reports . The nine winners who won't be taking office-six House members and three senators-are all Democrats. Six have accepted jobs in the administration of Dan Malloy , the first Democratic governor elected in Connecticut since 1986. Two are taking other state jobs, while one is leaving because of larceny charges. What's going on in Connecticut  differs only in degree from what's happening in almost every one of the 28 states with new governors. New administrations are grabbing talent from legislatures, creating vacancies that will be filled through special elections or appointments, depending on the particular state's procedures. Yesterday, Republicans in Iowa held onto a state Senate seat that had been occupied by Kim Reynolds , who was elected lieutenant governor in November. Next Tuesday, Oklahoma holds a Senate special election for incoming lieutenant governor Todd Lamb 's seat, while Mississippi and Virginia hold two special elections each for seats belonging to legislators who were elected to Congress.

Colorado Democrat John Hickenlooper 's choice for budget director is someone who held the job under Colorado's most recent Republican governor. Henry Sobanet had the role under GOP Governor Bill Owens, who left office in 2007. "I am honored and a little panicked," Sobanet said, according to the Denver Post . "The options this time are leaner. The economy appears to have not the same chance of rebounding as earlier in the decade, at least not in the short term." Sobanet is the second Republican Hickenlooper has selected this week. On Monday, he named  Reeves Brown to lead the Department of Local Affairs.

Unlike virtually every other incoming governor around the country, Oregon 's John Kitzhaber hasn't made key appointments yet. The Register-Guard notes that so far Kitzhaber has named only a single appointee: Mike Bonetto , a health policy advisor. He hasn't announced a chief of staff or said which members of Governor Ted Kulongoski's cabinet he'll retain (Kitzhaber and Kulongoski are both Democrats). Kitzhaber, who served two earlier terms as governor, says he'll have key staff members in place when he takes office on Monday and that he'll have cabinet picks by February 10.