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State

Senate Dems push for graduated income tax

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, argues tax break legislation while on the Senate floor during session Dec. 13, 2011, in Springfield.
State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, argues tax break legislation while on the Senate floor during session Dec. 13, 2011, in Springfield.

SPRINGFIELD – Democrats in the Illinois Senate said Thursday that a $1.5 billion greater-than-expected April revenue windfall won’t solve the state’s long-term fiscal problems, and they urged House Democrats to move forward with a constitutional amendment to overhaul the state’s income tax structure.

“The truth is that manna from Heaven may get us out of the desert, but it will not feed us for years to come,” Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said during a Statehouse news conference.

Harmon and fellow Democratic Sen. Toi Hutchinson, of Olympia Fields, were pushing back against statements made Wednesday by House Republican leaders who said the unexpected windfall, and the decision by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration to raise its forecasts for future revenues, mean the state no longer needs to overhaul its tax code or adopt any of the other new taxes that Pritzker has proposed.

“It plugs one hole in a very, very leaky boat,” Hutchinson said “We have a lot to make up.”

Harmon and Hutchinson also appeared to be applying subtle pressure to House Democrats who so far have not acted on a proposed constitutional amendment that would replace Illinois’ current “flat” income tax with a graduated tax structure that would apply higher rates to higher-income taxpayers.

The proposed amendment passed the Senate on a straight party-line vote of 40-19 on May 1, but there have been reports that House Democrats may not have the three-fifths majority – 71 votes – that they will need to place the question on the November 2020 ballot.

“The one thing we always expect is that nothing moves out of either chamber without the weight and input of the other chamber,” Hutchinson said. “This is absolutely normal and expected.”

Harmon and Hutchinson also rejected suggestions by Republicans who have argued that if a graduated income tax system is imposed, there should be another constitutional amendment requiring a supermajority vote in the General Assembly to raise any tax rates or lower the income threshold for the higher tax brackets.

“I think we have proven time and time again how extraordinarily difficult it is to raise taxes, even with a simple majority,” Harmon said. “This is not something done cavalierly. It is not something done easily.”

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