Higher ed. progress needs tax raise

By Paul Wagner

If the General Assembly does not approve Gov. James Thompson’s proposed tax increase, it might have detrimental effects on higher education, according to Illinois higher education officials.

An Illinois Board of Higher Education report stated a budget for fiscal year 1988, which assumes no increase in appropriations from the state’s General Revenue Fund, would have several detrimental effects on higher education.

No funds would be available for faculty and staff salary increases if the tax increase is not approved, the IBHE stated. The IBHE stated an overall increase in salaries without a tax increase would necessitate reducing staff.

IBHE initiatives in areas of improving minority student achievement, encouraging cooperation between higher and secondary education, strengthening undergraduate education and supporting economic development in Illinois will be delayed or possibly terminated without the tax increase.

The level of General Revenue Fund support per student, in constant dollars, would drop because of a projected increase in inflation. The IBHE stated, “This (reduction in per student support) would reverse the direction of four years of progress in improving per-student support from the General Revenue Fund.”

The effects of not increasing taxes “will be an erosion of improvements attained in recent years and limitations on higher education’s effectiveness in helping the state achieve greater competitiveness in the national and world economies,” the IBHE stated.

NIU President John LaTourette echoed the IBHE’s support for the proposed tax increase at a press conference Tuesday. “Unless there is an increase in the tax base, I see some real slippage in … the long-term potential of the Illinois economy,” he said.

A 0.5 percent increase in the state’s income tax would mean a “tremendous difference” for the state’s economy, LaTourette said. A 0.8 percent corporate tax increase also is needed, he said.

LaTourette said he did not support an increase in sales taxes. Thompson’s proposal calls for expanding the sales tax base to include such items as entertainment. LaTourette said service taxes have not been effective in generating revenue and have been detrimental to economic incentives. He said economists call these “nuisance” taxes.

Illinois has slipped from being a leader in supporting higher education to 40th among 50 states, LaTourette said. The state has made progress in the last four years, but the tax increase is needed to continue progress, he said.