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Will Quinn let temporary state income tax hike expire in 2015?

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Pat Quinn, who played a pivotal role in raising the state income tax by 66 percent in 2011, wouldn’t say Wednesday whether he favors letting the tax hike sunset in early 2015.

The issue will be one of the central themes of the 2014 gubernatorial race, but the Democratic incumbent dodged repeated questions about his position on the income-tax hike, saying the question amounted to putting the “cart before the horse.”

“Our No. 1 focus has to be on pension reform. You know, we’ve worked hard on this. I’ve worked hard on it. Many other people have worked hard on it. I really hope the conference committee and legislative leaders can come together and vote on a bill,” Quinn said when asked about the subject. Pressed on why he wouldn’t directly answer the question, Quinn responded: “A budget is based on what your costs are. We don’t know what our pension costs are until we really address the pension-reform issue. That is the No. 1 budget challenge that we have.

“You don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” Quinn continued. “I think you need to know what your expenditures are and what the pension requirements are, and I hope we can come up with a pension-reform measure that is good for those who receive retirement income as well as for the taxpayers,” he said.

Under the law Quinn helped put on the books, the current 5-percent income tax rate for individuals is scheduled to drop to 3.75 percent on Jan. 1, 2015, without legislative intervention. The rate would drop to 3.25 percent in 2025. The income-tax rate for corporations would drop from the current 9.5 percent to 7.75 percent on Jan. 1, 2015 unless lawmakers vote to extend the tax rates.