Gubernatorial candidate to focus on income taxes

By Brian Slupski

Illinois State Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch is running for governor on a platform many would consider political suicide—raising the state income tax.

The cornerstone of Netsch’s platform is reducing property taxes, which she described as unfair, increasing state income taxes and then increasing the state’s funding obligation to elementary and secondary education.

“Some areas’ property taxes are more out of line than others, but they are high throughout the state,” Netsch said.

She said it would be more fair for people to pay a higher income tax than constantly rising property taxes that have no relation to a person’s income.

“But I would not raise the income tax unless we were able to get the property tax reduction,” Netsch said.

While the key to Netsch’s campaign is education, the focus is on elementary and secondary, not higher education.

Netsch does have some background in higher education. She was a five-term state senator from 1973 to 1991, and she had a hand in creating the Illinois Board of Higher Education and Illinois’ higher education governance system (which Gov. Jim Edgar recently tried to dismantle).

Under the governance system, NIU is governed by the Board of Regents. The Regents also oversee Sangamon State University in Springfield and Illinois State University in Normal. Edgar’s failed reforms would have given NIU its own governing board.

“Individual boards at this stage make some sense. The idea behind the Illinois Board of Higher Education was to prevent competition between the universities,” Netsch said.

“The IBHE was supposed to be a coordinating board, looking at the bigger picture of state higher education,” she said.

She said the IBHE was supposed to make sure the universities did not duplicate each other’s program offerings and stayed focused on their missions.

She said somewhere along the way the IBHE lost that mission.

Recently the IBHE has tried to refocus on its mission by creating the Priorities, Quality and Productivity initiative. The goal of PQP is to focus universities more squarely on their missions by reallocating dollars from low-priority areas. Under PQP, 190 academic programs were recommended for elimination last year by the IBHE.

“The idea of taking a very hard-nosed look at what the missions are of the various schools, and focusing resources on those missions is very defendable. I agree with some of it,” Netsch said.