Amid Pandemic, Republicans Push To Remove Progressive Income Tax From November Ballot

ILLINOIS — Illinois’ leading legislative Republicans want an up or down vote on whether the progressive income tax amendment should be taken off the November ballot to spare small businesses a tax increase on top of a pandemic, but the governor has downplayed the suggestion.

The state has a flat income tax, per the Illinois Constitution. An amendment Democrats passed last year asks voters to change that to a structure with higher rates on higher earners.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said the progressive income tax would be a “kick in the teeth” to small businesses who’ve already been impacted during the pandemic, leading to historic unemployment.

“Most of them have come from small businesses who had to shut their doors because of the executive orders imposed by the governor,” Durkin said.

There are other amendments Durkin said, like ending gerrymandering, or reforming public sector pensions, or property tax relief and ethics reforms, that should have been considered, but weren’t.

“What I just mentioned are more important to the people in Illinois than to fulfill a campaign promise by the governor,” Durkin said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker downplayed the Republican’s push saying it shows their lack of confidence in their position.

Democrats say the billions of increased taxes from progressive income tax rates will help fund the state’s budget priorities. Some budgeteers suggested building a budget with two paths, one with revenue from the progressive income tax, and one without.

Durkin said basing any part of the budget that starts this summer on revenue voters haven’t approved is wrong.

“That’s irresponsible,” Durkin said. “We cannot negotiate on that, period.”

Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, said Republicans will work with Democrats on the budget that’s expected to be up to $7 billion short of revenue projected before the pandemic.

“We’re willing to work with the Democrats,” Brady said. “We need a budget solution and we’re going to go down that path but not with the false promise of revenue from a graduated income tax.”

The deadline to pass bills, including a spending plan, with simple majorities is May 31. After that, it will take supermajorities to pass a budget to take effect July 1. That could mean some Republicans would have to support a budget if some Democrats cannot attend session because of the pandemic.

The Center Square – Greg Bishop

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