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State

Tax amendment takes step closer which could pass Senate by end of week

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

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 today. 

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 today 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 raised 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.

Editor’s note: Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit news service operated by the Illinois Press Foundation that provides coverage of state government to newspapers throughout Illinois. The mission of Capitol News Illinois is to provide credible and unbiased coverage of state government to the more than 400 daily and weekly newspapers that are members of the Illinois Press Association.

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