Local state Republican legislators are going on the offensive to combat the push for a progressive income tax.
The Illinois Senate passed a series of bills last week, including one to put the question of amending the state constitution to do away with the flat tax on the ballot in 2020. Voters would have to approve it by a 60% margin for it to pass.
The legislation moved to the State House of Representatives for consideration. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats, but even House Speaker Michael Madigan said he thought the Senate voted too quickly. Madigan still was optimistic the House would pass it.
On Monday, House Republicans held a news conference to again voice opposition to the proposal. State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, who has been an ardent opponent of a graduated income tax, said the plan doesn’t address the structural problems that have led to the state’s fiscal problems.
“They’re trying to tax a higher percentage of a shrinking pie,” Batinick said at a news conference on Monday. “We need to start growing the pie.”
State Rep. David Allen Welter, R-Morris, co-sponsored a bill to require the approval of a supermajority of lawmakers to levy any future income tax increases. He called the measure a “safeguard for middle-class families, which is something we sorely need.”
Republican critics of the progressive tax, including Batinick, have argued that although the higher rates Gov. J.B. Pritzker originally proposed would affect those making more than $250,00 a year, those rates could creep down to affect middle-class taxpayers if the state looks for even more revenue in the future. State Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, announced she’s supporting Welter’s bill.
“Taxes are a major problem in Illinois,” McDermed said. “It should be very difficult to raise them.”
Democratic proponents of the constitutional amendment have argued that a flat tax is regressive and that many agencies are in need of funding from the state. They’ve said the added revenue would go toward funding needed infrastructure improvements throughout the state and to making higher education more affordable.
However, Batinick said the proposal, combined with a shrinking population and unfunded pension liability, could be harmful, especially if another recession hits. He wants legislators to address how state services are provided.
Batinick also noted Illinois already ranks third in the country in state funding toward higher education.
“This is not a long-term plan,” Batinick said. “This is a recipe for disaster.”