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Pritzker Confident Dems Will Approve Tax — Others Hearing 'Grumbling' and 'Hesitation'

flanked by students, J.B. Pritzker speaks with reporters at a Springfield school
Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks with reporters before signing legislation at Southeast High School in Springfield, Illinois.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said Thursday he’s confident the legislature will approve a graduated income tax.

His comments followed a news report ($) that he and his allies are having a hard time finding enough votes in the Illinois House.

“Well I wouldn’t believe everything you read,” Pritzker said. “I would say that we’re doing quite well in terms of support.”

But a Democrat in the House said there’s been “grumbling” and “a fair degree of hesitation” in the caucus, particularly over the details of the rates.

Another Democrat, state Rep. Mike Zalewski of Chicago, said it should be relatively easy for lawmakers to put a graduated income tax on the ballot. But he says there’s more resistance on the question of what the tax rates should be.

Pritzker is proposing a modest tax cut for every income bracket below $250,000 dollars a year. In some cases, that tax cut could be $100 dollars.

State Rep. Kathleen Willis, a member of the House Democratic leadership team, said there was some concern that trumpeting such a small amount as a tax cut could be perceived as “almost insulting” by some constituents.

Still, another Democrat involved in negotiations on the tax, Rep. Robert Martwick of Chicago, says he’s not worried yet.

“It’s a natural part of the process for legislators to say ‘I’m not there yet,’ because that’s how you weigh in,” Martwick said. “That’s what gets people to come and talk to you. That’s how you get to put your input into how those rates should be.”

Pritzker said polling shows that the idea of taxing wealthy people at a higher rate is popular, suggesting the issue should not be that hard for most lawmakers.

“So I feel like legislators who vote for it are listening to their constituents, and legislators who are voting against it are not listening to their constituents,” Pritzker said.

The governor wants lawmakers to approve tax rates and the necessary constitutional amendment by the end of May. Voters would have the final say on the amendment at next year’s general election.

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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