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Graduated Income Tax Ready For House Vote

House Revenue and Finance Committee
Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois
The Illinois House Revenue and Finance Committee, left, hears testimony before voting on legislation that would set rates for a graduated income tax, should voters change the constitution to permit one.

Democrats are advancing legislation that spells out the rates for a proposed graduated state income tax.

Democrats have decided Illinois voters deserve to know exactly what they’re in for — if the state changes from a flat income tax to one that's graduated.

So when voters are asked to decide on the necessary constitutional amendment next fall, they’ll already know whether their tax rate will rise or fall, Democratic state Rep. Mike Zalewski, from Riverside, said Friday.

“We, I think as a caucus, feel like if you don’t do that, then people — voters — next fall won’t have the opportunity to know what they’re voting for,” Zalewski said. “They’ll know that they’re voting to change the constitution, but they won’t know what their tax bill will look like.”

Under legislation that approved Friday by the House Revenue and Finance Committee, people making less than $250,000 a year would see a slight tax cut, while those with higher incomes would see tax increases.

Zalewski says Illinoisans are about to have a long conversation about government finance.

“I think the last 10 years have led to the next 18 months of debate over what our tax system should look like, what the expectation of government vis-a-vis the people should be,” he said. “And I think that’s where the governor’s got to go out and make his case.”

Republicans have remained opposed to the graduated income tax, saying Illinois ought to be able to balance its books without higher tax rates.

Polling has consistently shown a majority of Illinois voters prefer higher levels of government spending and lower tax rates.

Democrats are essentially saying the time has come for voters to choose — a graduated tax system or steep cuts across government.

Committee approval tees up a vote in the full House next week — in the final days of this year’s legislative session.

The legislation is Senate Bill 687 and Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 1.

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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