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Illinois 2010: Political numbers games.

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Tax Numbers Once again, Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes has announced his campaign for governor. At a press conference Wednesday, Hynes unveiled his plan for how to close Illinois’ budget deficit in the short term, and the long term. The key piece of Hynes’ proposal is a graduated income tax he says would pull in $5.5-billion each year. This would require amending the state’s constitution, which very specifically reads, “A tax on or measured by income shall be at a non-graduated rate." Hynes’ plan would leave the current rate (3%) for people making less than $200,000 per year. “This means that 97% of Illinois taxpayers would see no change at all," his plan reads. People making more than $200,000 would be subject to tax rate increases “ranging from 0.5 up to a maximum of 4.5 percentage points." The Fact Check We decided to check out that 97-percent number with the Illinois Department of Revenue. Sue Hofer, the spokeswoman for the department, pulled out the most recent available stats, those from tax year 2007. She says 6,013,310 individual tax returns were filed. Of those, 251,245 reported adjusted gross incomes of more than $200,000. That means 4.18-percent of the parties filing Illinois returns for 2007 would have to pay more under Hynes’ plan, and 95.82-percent would pay the same. That number is close, but not dead-on, with the number Hynes used, so I checked with his campaign. Turns out, it used the tax year 2005 numbers. The state Department of Revenue reports that 96.34-percent of returns from that year had adjusted gross incomes under $200,000. It’s important to note the difference here between “Illinois taxpayer," as Hynes’ plan reads, and “people of this state," as Hynes said at his press conference. All these numbers I’ve cited are based off the number of returns filed -- so that INCLUDES people who do not live in Illinois but do work here, and EXCLUDES people who live in Illinois but don’t file returns (including children and some seniors). Bottom line: Hynes’ assertion is probably pretty accurate. As his campaign notes, the economy’s taken a bit of a tumble since tax year 2007, so it’s not unreasonable to think that since then, the percentage of people making more than $200,000 has dropped from about 4-percent, to about 3-percent. (For the record, the impact of Governor Pat Quinn’s tax plan got a pretty solid vetting in this Chicago Tribune article from March. According to the paper, Quinn “acknowledged he has fuzzed the numbers when telling taxpayers how much they would owe the state. ["¦] Quinn is estimating the benefit taxpayers will get if they deduct their state income tax payment on their federal tax return. That option [is] available only to people who itemize"¦their federal tax returns.") Internal Polling Now to something more politically raw: public opinion polls. The Quinn campaign Wednesday released an internal poll (one performed at the request of the campaign) done by Anzalone Liszt Research that shows, in part, Quinn beating Hynes 54-percent to 26-percent in the primary. This was based off of “751 live telephone interviews with likely 2010 Democratic primary voters in Illinois." The campaign only released the summary, so we can’t see what specific phrasing was used. I called Mike Rendina, Hynes’ campaign manager, to get reaction. He started by saying, “You always have to take internal polls with a grain of salt." He says, “We know this is going to be a very competitive race," and notes that Quinn starts with an advantage in name recognition (according to the poll, 88-percent knew Quinn, 67-percent knew Hynes). Rendina says the Hynes campaign plans to “make up ground," using what he called the “resource advantage." The latest campaign finance reports showed Quinn with about $700,000 in his campaign account; Hynes had $3.5-million. I asked Rendina if the Hynes campaign was releasing any internal polls of its own. Not at this point, he said.

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