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Pritzker Drops $5m On Tax Campaign, Expects Expensive Fight

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaking with reporters in his ceremonial office in the Illinois Statehouse on April 9, 2019
Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaking with reporters on April 9, 2019, the day Democrats introduced the graduated income tax constitutional amendment in the Illinois General Assembly.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is giving $5 million to a campaign supporting a graduated income tax. It’s the first reported contribution in what’s expected to be an expensive fight over the state’s tax policy.

Next fall, voters will decide whether to end the Illinois Constitution’s requirement that the income tax be flat — where everyone pays the same rate.

Pritzker is advocating for a change that would result in higher taxes on annual income greater than $250,000.

Because voters have the final say, the Democratic governor and his Republican opponents are expected to spend a great deal of money on persuasion.

“Well certainly there’s been a threat by lots of well-funded right-wing organizations and individuals to preserve the unfair tax system that exists today,” Pritzker says.

“It was important to me to step up and support something that I’ve been talking about since day one of my campaign, something that I think is very important for the state,” he says.

The political committee receiving Pritzker’s five million is called “Vote Yes for Fairness.” It’s run by one of his former top campaign aides.

The group on the other side of the issue is called "Vote No on the Blank Check Amendment.” It has yet to report any contributions and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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.