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dir="ltr">Illinois lawmakers are one step away from putting Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature income tax initiative before voters in 2020.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s top priority, a constitutional change allowing for a progressive income tax, has cleared the first hurdle in the Illinois State House of Representatives, what’s seen as the tallest hurdle in his plan to scrap the state’s constitutionally mandated flat income tax.
By a vote of 9 to 6 on Monday, the House Revenue and Finance Committee sent the constitutional amendment, which allows for a progressive income tax, to the House floor for a vote.
Supporters said voters should have a say on.
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“Give the voters of the state of Illinois an opportunity to decide if a fair tax is in the best interest of Illinois,” said state Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, who sponsored the bill.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin questioned the governor’s push to change the constitution when lawmakers should be working on a budget for the coming fiscal year that begins in July.
“I think you’re asking for a lot in a very short amount of time, particularly when the biggest issue that we have right now is our budget,” he said.
Pritzker’s change passed the state Senate earlier this month, where only 18 Republicans remain after the 2018 election, tied to legislation that set the initial rates that would take effect in 2021 at the earliest, along with a limited property tax freeze tied to state funding requirements and a repeal of the estate tax. The proposed property tax freeze and repeal of the estate tax have been criticized as token efforts that could easily be repealed once they’re enacted.
As the bill stands, the initial rates of the progressive tax would be unchanged for most taxpayers. Those with income over $250,000 will see an increase from the existing flat rate of 4.95 percent to 7.75 percent, escalating until a single filer earns $750,000. Then, their entire income is taxed at 7.99 percent. That rate with the associated clawback provision kicks in at $1 million for joint filers. Pritzker’s office said his rates, similar to those passed in the Senate, would raise $3.4 billion annually, but no one outside of his administration has been able to recreate that estimate.
With comfortable supermajority rule in both chambers, the change has been anything but comfortable for supporters of the amendment.
Pritzker needs a three-fifths majority, or 71 votes, in favor of the amendment to have it placed on the ballot. Republicans remain unified in opposition and a handful of Democrats have announced they won’t support it without coupling the measure to greater taxpayer protections.
Pritzker appointed state Rep. Jerry Costello Jr., a Democrat from Red Bud opposed to the progressive tax, to a law enforcement leadership position within Illinois Department of Natural Resources. His replacement Nathan Reitz, a Democrat from Steeleville, hasn’t said whether he’ll support the measure.
Jonathan Carroll, a Northbrook Democrat, voted for the bill in committee, but made it clear that his support may not extend to the final vote on the House floor.
“I still have strong reservations on this,” he said. “You’re going to have an ‘aye’ vote from me now, but that does not necessarily mean you’ll get my support on the floor.”
Ideas Illinois, a nonprofit run by business advocate Greg Baise, has joined the Illinois Policy Institute, a free-market nonprofit, and others in pushing back against Pritzker’s spending in promotion of the change. The groups said Illinois lawmakers can’t be trusted with a blank check like a progressive income tax.
They face an uphill battle. Think Big Illinois, another nonprofit, has released more than a dozen video ads that have run online, on TV and over the radio, reportedly spending nearly $3 million since mid-March, according to the Center for Illinois Politics.