AP NEWS

Though it failed in Senate, higher threshold for tax hikes urged by House GOP

May 8, 2019

SPRINGFIELD – At a Tuesday press event billed to “discuss new legislation” in response to a graduated tax constitutional amendment, Illinois House Republicans introduced an identical bill to one that failed to advance in the Senate.

The Republicans’ measure would require a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber to raise any tax rates in the future.

Senate Democrats already advanced a graduated income tax rate structure last week which would become law if an amendment is approved by the House, then by Illinois voters. That rate structure would lower the income tax rate for earners with $250,000 or less in taxable income, while the tax rate would increase on earnings above that threshold.

The higher taxes on those earning more than $250,000 would provide more than $3.5 billion in estimated revenue, and Democrats say it is the only legislative plan that can balance a long-term structural deficit of about $3.2 billion.

Democrats have said the other options for balancing the budget are an increase to the flat tax rate from 4.95 percent to 6.95 percent or 15 percent cuts to all state departments, including education.

The nine House Republicans at Tuesday’s event did not reveal a counterplan to close the structural deficit, but they did say greater taxpayer protections are needed as the state awaits “structural spending reforms.”

House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 34 does not address those structural reforms, but Republican Rep. Thomas Morrison, of Palatine, said it does give taxpayers “protection.”

“Going forward, it just takes a simple majority to raise taxes, and we believe that that is not a great enough protection to taxpayers,” Morrison, the amendment’s sponsor, said.  

The Democrats’ graduated tax amendment does not lessen the amount of votes – 30 in the Senate and 60 in the House – needed to raise taxes, but Republicans claim it will make it politically easier to sell a tax increase to the public by allowing the General Assembly to raise the rates on only a certain portion of the public.

The Republican amendment to require a two-thirds vote to raise taxes, however, remains in the House Rules Committee.

The graduated tax amendment passed the Senate by a 40-19 vote and will need support from 71 lawmakers in the House to be put on the 2020 ballot.

There are now 73 Democrats in that chamber after the seat of conservative Democratic Rep. Jerry Costello II, of Smithton, was vacated Tuesday when he accepted a post at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Costello, who was a co-sponsor on a resolution opposing the graduated tax, will be replaced within 30 days after a vote by theDemocratic Party chairmen in Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair and Perry counties.

Editor’s note: Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit news service operated by the Illinois Press Foundation that provides coverage of state government to newspapers throughout Illinois. The mission of Capitol News Illinois is to provide credible and unbiased coverage of state government to the more than 400 daily and weekly newspapers that are members of the Illinois Press Association.