CHICAGO (CBS) — Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, who is running for Illinois State Comptroller, had some praise for Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget plan on Friday, but she stopped short of endorsing his plan to make a 2011 income tax hike permanent.

Personal income taxes in Illinois were raised from 3 percent to 5 percent in 2011, and were set to begin rolling back next year, but the governor now wants that tax hike made permanent to avoid what he said would be “extreme and radical” cuts to schools and other state-funded programs.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Simon said the best part of Quinn’s budget plan was his emphasis on education spending, especially early childhood education.

As for his proposal to permanently extend what was supposed to be a temporary income tax increase in 2011, Simon said the idea is worth discussing.

“I think that’s certainly one of the options on the table right now that could be used instead of, or in concert with Speaker Madigan has proposed very recently – what’s being described as the ‘millionaires tax,’ directed towards education,” she said.

She didn’t indicate a preference for either the permanent income tax hike, or Madigan’s proposal to change the Illinois Constitution to add a 3 percent tax surcharge on individual income of $1 million or more.

“I think it’s important to have that statewide discussion now about what our priorities are and how we’re going to pay for them, because we’re really going to have to move out of this situation of being backlogged on our bills from the state,” she said.

Simon is challenging Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, the Repubilcan incumbent in the general election in November.

The comptroller’s office is in charge of handling the state’s checkbook, including making payments to employees, contractors, and other vendors. As of the end of February, the state had approximately $7 billion in unpaid bills.

Simon is the guest on this week’s “At Issue” program, airing Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.

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