Language filed for graduated income tax amendment, which could pass Senate by end of week

Language filed for graduated income tax amendment, which could pass Senate by end of week

Senate sponsor calls governor ‘brave’ for doing something that’s been long discussed


Capitol News Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Language is filed for a constitutional amendment that would allow the Illinois Legislature to enact a graduated income tax, and the Illinois Senate Executive Committee is scheduled to take up the matter Wednesday.

The full text of the amendment reads: “The General Assembly shall provide by law for the rate or rates of any tax on or measured by income imposed by the state. In any such tax imposed upon corporations the highest rate shall not exceed the highest rate imposed on individuals by more than a ratio of 8 to 5”

At a news conference in his office Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said it’s time to “let the people vote” on whether they would like to see the tax structure overhauled.

“We have a constitutional amendment process that ultimately puts this decision to the voters,” Pritzker said. “It’s time to let the people of Illinois – our taxpayers – decide.”

The measure could be placed on the ballot as early as the 2020 presidential election, which would require approval from three-fifths of each the Illinois Senate and House. After that, it would require approval from 60 percent of those voting on the specific question or the majority of those casting votes in the election.

The Senate could vote on the measure, SJRCA 1, as early as Wednesday after taking a procedural vote to waive posting notices Tuesday which passed with 36 voting in favor and 15 voting against.

“This is something we’ve been working on for the better part of 10 years,” Senate sponsor Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said. “What’s different now is Gov. Pritzker, a governor brave enough to say that this is the solution for our state, and to put his considerable political capital behind this effort.”

The amendment needs 71 votes in the House and 36 in the Senate to be placed on the ballot, and those chambers have 74 and 40 Democrats in them, respectively.

While it is unclear if the amendment will receive any votes from Senate Republicans, House Republicans remain unanimously opposed, according to Minority Leader Rep. Jim Durkin of Western Springs.

“If the Democrats were sincere about protecting the middle class, then they should have the rates that they are proposing incorporated in the Constitution. Because otherwise, they will be subject to change by the same people that raise taxes over the last 10 years, and you just can't trust them,” Durkin said.

As it stands, the amendment allows the Legislature only to replace Illinois’ flat tax – which is currently 4.95 percent on all earners – with a graduated tax rate. But Gov. J.B. Pritzker told Capitol News Illinois during a podcast interview earlier this month that he planned to pass companion legislation containing specific rates. 

Per Pritzker’s current proposal, the rate would be a flat 7.95 percent for those making more than $1 million, while earners in five other brackets would see margins of income taxed from 4.75 to 7.85 percent. Illinoisans earning $250,000 or less – approximately 97 percent of the state, Pritzker’s office claims – would see their rates lowered modestly under the plan.

Durkin warned that despite the proposed rates, “the middle class eventually is going to absorb most of these costs within time.”

But Harmon argued last week that the amendment will not give the Legislature any added authority to raise taxes in the future, it will simply allow them to set a graduated rate the same way they can currently set a flat rate.  

Republicans also objected to the removal of language from current law which states “at any one time there may be no more than one such (income) tax imposed by the State,” arguing that this could lead to double taxation or other “surcharges.”

But Harmon said opponents are “getting more manic,” and the prohibition on levying multiple income taxes was simply a companion to the requirement for a single, flat tax rate.

Pritzker once again called for those opponents to put into writing a specific counterproposal for fixing the state’s budget woes, and he accused opponents of “demagoguing the issue.”

“How many months have my doors been open?” Pritzker asked, noting the lack of specific Republican proposals to balance the budget.

Durkin said Republican priorities are well known, and the state needs more immediate solutions to revenue problems, rather than discussions of a tax increase which cannot yield results until 2021 at the earliest.

“Property tax relief, fixing our pension system, paying down the deficits and creating jobs. That's the plan. It's been the plan forever,” Durkin said. “If he wants me to go more specific, if they want to take my suggestions even more serious, or serious at all, we'll put them down on paper.”

Jerry Nowicki

Jerry NowickiJerry Nowicki

Jerry has more than five years of experience in and around state government and nearly 10 years of experience in news. He grew up in south suburban Evergreen Park and received a bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University and a master’s degree online from Purdue University.

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