Graduated Income Tax Moves Forward After Stumble

Apr 4, 2014

  An effort to change Illinois' income tax from a flat to a graduated structure is making headway in the General Assembly. The plan, where the more you earn the more you pay, has been revived after a setback last week.

When another proposal for a graduated income tax was up for debate last week, it was shot down before even getting to the floor. But Representative Christian Mitchell, a Democrat from Chicago, says his proposal is different: Its income-based tax brackets are lower than the previous version.

Advocates of Mitchell's plan say it would mean a break for 94 percent of Illinois taxpayers compared to what they currently pay.

Less than a day after filing his legislation, Mitchell had signed up 37 cosponsors, but he'll need support from nearly double that many to get it through the House. He plans to convince lawmakers by arguing it's more palatable than extending the 2011 income tax hike, something backed by the governor and legislative leaders.

"Let's make sure that we have sufficient revenues to cover the critical and key investments the state of Illinois needs to make," he said. "And I think that when you present it that way, you present it as an issue of fairness and about economic competition and growth, I think that everyone will buy into that."

But opponents of the plan say it's really a mask for a tax hike. They say the proposal is bad for the state's business climate.

Todd Maisch, with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, points to Illinois' high unemployment rate. He takes a trickle-down approach, saying individuals and small businesses in a position to create jobs would be taxed out of the market.

"The flat tax is the fair tax and a progressive income tax is bad for the economy because it's bad for the job creators and eventually the people of Illinois," he said.

Moving to a graduated tax would require amending the state's constitution.