Illinois lawmakers pulled an all-nighter in Springfield, voting to end the death penalty and to raise income taxes. Now the question is, which bills will Governor Pat Quinn sign into law?
It’s certain Quinn will endorse the income tax hikes: from 3% to 5% for individuals for the next 4 years, and from 4.8% to 7% for corporations. He helped make the deal with Democratic Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan, as they finally try to get a handle on billions in budget deficits. Their attempt to raise the cigarette tax and borrow more cash failed to make it through the House.
What’s unknown is whether the governor will go along with the legislature’s bid to abolish the death penalty. Quinn has supported ex-Governor George Ryan’s moratorium, and what he calls fairly applied capital punishment. Ryan imposed the moratorium ten years ago because of mounting evidence that the death penalty was not carefully or fairly applied. 20 death row inmates have been exonerated of their crimes since Illinois reopened Death Row in 1977.
Those stats don’t discourage prosecutors and law enforcers, including Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who argues the death penalty serves as a deterrent, and should be an option in meting out justice in the most heinous cases.
The stats have inspired a whole catalogue of songs, too. In reading today’s stories, I was reminded of The Executioner’s Last Songs — [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Jon Langford[/lastfm]’s excellent compilations of tunes about crime and punishment. Jon and his compadres (including [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Steve Earle[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Neko Case[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Dave Alvin[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]the Handsome Family[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Alejandro Escovedo[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Kelly Hogan[/lastfm], and of course [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]the Waco Brothers[/lastfm] and [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]the Mekons[/lastfm]) are firmly on the side of abolition. The discs benefit The Illinois Death Penalty Moratorium Project and the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty.
An aide to the governor would only say that he’ll review the bill. Quinn has 60 days to sign it into law, and if he does, capital punishment would be taken off the books on July 1, 2011. Should he sign, or should he sit on it?