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Thousands rally at Illinois Capitol to call for tax hike

(photo: Sean Powers, Illinois Public Radio)

By Amanda Vinicky, Illinois Public Radio

Springfield, Ill. – The threat of drastic budget cuts prompted the largest statehouse rally in recent history.

An estimated 15,000 people came to Springfield to protest impending cuts to education, programs for the mentally ill, and home care services.

They came to press state legislators to ward off the cuts by passing a tax increase. William McNary, head of Citizen Action Illinois, stirred up the crowd.

"Too many lawmakers act as if what happens over there in that Capitol building is like the weather, it's out of our control," McNary said. "But that is not so. There are 118 State Representatives. Every one of them has a vote. There are 59 State Senators. Every one of them has a vote. I know these are tough times but we need tough leaders to fix tough problems."

The mass of protesters included teachers, health care workers, state employees and others. The Green Party candidate for Governor, attorney Rich Whitney, was at the rally trying to drum up support for his campaign.

He said Illinois needs more revenue than would be brought in by Democratic Governor Pat Quinn's proposed 33 percent income tax hike.

Conversely, the GOP nominee, Senator Bill Brady, says he favors cuts over higher taxes.