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powered by Illinois Policy Institute
Gubernatorial candidates and the progressive tax
     |     February 28, 2014     |      Budget + Tax


By Jackson Adams

Illinois News Network

The four Republicans competing for their party’s nomination for governor all say they oppose amending Illinois’ constitution to allow for a graduated income tax, a concept that Gov. Pat Quinn supports.

The graduated, or progressive, income tax, has tax rates stair-stepping ever higher based on a person’s income.

So the more money someone earns, the bigger portion of their income they give to the state.

Quinn, a Democrat seeking re-election, is for this change.

“Taxes are never popular, but they should be based on ability to pay,” he told the Associated Press in an interview. “I have always favored a system for those who are extremely wealthy, they should not have the same tax rate as a minimum-wage worker.”

But opponents say middle-class as well as upper-income Illinois workers would end up paying more under a progressive income tax.

The Illinois Constitution states that its income tax must be applied with the same rate paid by all taxpayers.

To change to a progressive tax system, Illinois would have to amend its constitution, a process that requires lawmakers to place the matter on the ballot and 60 percent of voters to support it.

All four candidates seeking the GOP nomination for governor say they oppose the progressive income tax.

“Illinois has a spending problem. We don’t have a revenue problem,” said state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale. “In the states that have a progressive income tax we’re not talking about taxing just the rich. … If you make $55,000 or more in the states that have a progressive income tax, that would be a tax increase over the Illinois income tax rate which is supposed to be in effect next year.”

He added that, as a state senator, he voted against the current “temporary” income tax increase, which is set to partially sunset in January 2015.

“One advantage Illinois has always had is a low, flat income tax,” he said.

State Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, concurred, adding that it would be another nail in Illinois’ economic coffin were it to pass.

“There’s probably nothing more important right now than delivering on that tax cut,” he said at the Republican gubernatorial debate held last Tuesday in Springfield’s Hoogland Center. “It’s the only way we’re going to rebuild our economy.”

He confirmed that he would veto any attempts to pass the progressive tax if elected governor.

Businessman Bruce Rauner said he opposed the progressive tax as well.

Senate President John Cullerton “is advocating for a progressive income tax and trying to make the case that we need to go to that,” he said during the Springfield debate. “We do not. It would be damaging to the economy.”

Instead, Rauner advocated for making tough decisions that would bring down the state’s overall spending dramatically.

Treasurer Dan Rutherford said while he would like to see a reduction to the income tax, it needs to be part of a comprehensive discussion about tax restructuring in Illinois.

“I don’t support the progressive income tax proposal,” he said during the Springfield debate, according to the Kankakee Daily-Journal. “I would like to see the income tax rolled back.”

Rutherford continued: “I’m not going to pander or throw bombshells for political reasons. I don’t want this income tax increase to stay. … But let’s be honest, there may need to be some form of revenue on the table for negotiation. … You got to take this out of the hot searing spotlight and sit down, put everything on the table and negotiate what’s best for the long term of the state of Illinois.”