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Taxing Illinois' Millionaires

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Amanda Vinicky/WUIS
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Illinois lawmakers are debating whether the wealthy should take on a bigger tax burden.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan first surged the idea before last year's election, when .01-percenter Bruce Rauner was just a candidate.

Now, with Rauner as governor and calling for widespread cuts, Madigan has brought it back. He proposes adding a three-percent surcharge on all income over a million dollars, with the revenue going to schools.

"Many people do think that it is fair for people who have more, to pay more, in terms of taxes," one of Madigan's top lieutenants, Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, testified before a House revenue committee this morning.

The business community sees that additional tax will hit not just individuals, but companies. And combined with other taxes, like the estate tax, it'll chase both out of Illinois.

"This is really a tax on success," state Chamber of Commerce's leader Todd Maisch said. The plan won committee approval, but that may well be the end of it.

The millionaire's tax would require a constitutional amendment; moving that forward takes additional votes -- there weren't the 71 needed to get it through the House last year, which is why Speaker Madigan instead put a non-binding referendum question on the November ballot; 64-percent of voters said they favored the surcharge.

Illinois currently has a flat income tax rate, as is mandated by the constitution. A leading top Democrat, Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park, has a proposal to amend the constitution that would move Illinois to a graduated income tax, in which rates go up based on income brackets. That plan hasn't advanced at all, but there's plenty of time for both, considering the election isn't until next year.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has opposed the millionaire's amendment concept, and has further refuse to negotiate about any tax increase until his Turnaround Agenda has passed. Republicans continue to accuse Democrats of stonewalling negotiations on that pro-business platform. 

In a statement, Rauner's press office says "if the Speaker wants to bring Constitutional Amendments to a vote, he should start with term limits," which is part of the Turnaround proposal.  Madigan, the longest-serving member of the General Assembly and the longest-serving state house speaker in the nation, is opposed to limiting legislators' terms.  

Freshman Republican representatives today held a press conference to decry Madigan for holding up term limits; none, however, said they would voluntarily limit their own terms in office.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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