State: McHenry County Dem opposes progressive tax

By Greg Bishop 
Illinois News Network

Less than a week after Democrats proposed replacing Illinois’ flat income tax with a graduated tax system, the measure may already be on its way to defeat.

State Rep. Jack Franks told the Illinois Radio Network Thursday that he opposes the progressive tax proposal, which sponsors say would generate $1.9 billion.

“I’m not supportive of that,” said Franks. The longtime lawmaker represents McHenry County in northern Illinois – a heavily Republican district.

There are 71 Democrats in the Illinois House, the exact number of votes needed to put a constitutional amendment before voters that would allow the tax change. Seventy-one also is the number of votes needed to survive a veto by Gov. Bruce Rauner of proposed tax rates for a graduated tax system.

The governor opposes this tax change, and through a spokesperson has called it “the straw that breaks the Illinois economy’s back.” Republicans opposed a similar attempt to change the state’s tax structure in 2014 and have signaled their opposition to this measure, too.

Without Franks’ vote – or a Republican breaking ranks – the measure will fall one vote shy of passage.

Steve Brown, a spokesman for Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, said he had no comment on Franks’ statement.

Illinois currently levies a flat income tax of 3.75 percent. The flat tax system is written into the state’s constitution.

Moving to a graduated tax system requires voter approval of a constitutional amendment to change the way Illinoisans calculate their income taxes. The constitutional amendment under consideration by lawmakers does not include proposed rates, so separate legislation would be required to set the tax rates if the amendment was approved.

Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang is the sponsor of the current graduated tax proposal. Under Lang’s proposal, Illinoisans with $100,000 or less in taxable income would be taxed at 3.5 percent. Rates would increase incrementally as taxable income increases. The highest rate in Lang’s proposal is 9.75 percent on taxable income above $1 million.

Proponents of the graduated income tax have said this system would make it easier to generate revenue for the state.

“Nimbleness in tax policy is critical,” state Sen. Don Harmon said on a press call about the proposal earlier in the week. “With the current flat tax requirement in our constitution, we have no nimbleness. We can’t raise rates on millionaires or people who make $60 million a year without also raising rates on minimum wage workers and middle-class families.”

Harmon is backing the measure in the Illinois Senate.

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