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Activists Pushing For Graduated Income Tax

A group of activists are working to end Illinois' flat income tax. They say they've gathered more than 150-thousand signatures so far, and are making their case to Illinois lawmakers.

Income in Illinois is taxed at a uniform five percent, whether you're working at a drive-thru window or you're the CEO of a multi-national corporation.

The people pushing what they call a "fair tax" would have wealthy people pay more, while middle- and lower-income people would pay less. That's already how federal income taxes work.

Campaign director Kristen Crowell says Illinois needs to collect more money, because there's not a lot left to cut from the budget.

"Higher education, public education, transportation, public safety. I mean, thats just not a viable solution anymore to continue to cut cut cut," Crowell says.

John Bouman*, with the Shriver Center on poverty law, says the change would be good for businesses in Illinois. He pointed to state-funded education, road building, and health care.

"Businesses care a lot more about that stuff than they do about the marginal tax rates that their highest-paid executives are going to have to pay," Bauman says.

So far, 61 state lawmakers have signed on to the proposal — all Democrats. Because it would involve changing the Illinois Constitution, it would require extra votes in order to pass.

Republican leaders say they're opposed to a graduated income tax. They say it'll just lead to more government spending.

Correction, Nov. 6, 2013: An earlier version of this story misspelled John Bouman's name. Return to the corrected sentence.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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