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Senate Approves Graduated Income Tax; House Vote Next

Bill Brady
Jeff Smudde
Sen. Bill Brady, the Republican leader in the Senate, opposes the graduated income tax plan.

The Illinois Senate on Wednesday approved a graduated income-tax structure that charges a rate of 7.99 percent for the most affluent residents.

The plan by Olympia Fields Democratic Sen. Toi Hutchinson was approved 36-22. It would not take effect until 2021 and only if voters approve a constitutional amendment to replace the flat-rate income tax. The Senate approved asking the voters to decide on an amendment earlier Wednesday.

Central Illinois Republican Sens. Bill Brady, Jason Barickman, and Chapin Rose all voted against the plan.

Barickman, a Bloomington Republican, said the change will endanger economic growth.

“This graduated tax scheme offers no protections whatsoever for middle-income families, and we’ve already seen the proposed rates changing,” Barickman said in a statement. “People are rightly concerned that this plan would likely end up being just the first in a series of tax hikes."

Brady, the Senate minority leader, said the tax rate changes will drive people out of Illinois.

"The elimination of this flat-tax provision, we believe, severely puts at risk raising taxes higher, particularly on the middle class," said Brady, also a Bloomington Republican.

But Democrats, like state Sen. Don Harmon from Oak Park, say that’s not true.

“If you’re saying the flat tax is a good idea, you are protecting the uber-rich, not the middle class," Harmon said. "Because we can’t raise taxes on anyone without raising taxes on everyone, and that’s a protection for the richest among us."

Think Big Illinois, an organization aligned with graduated-tax proponent Gov. JB Pritzker, praised Wednesday's vote.

“Today represents another important step toward ensuring Illinois voters have the opportunity to decide if they want a tax system that lifts the burden off the middle class and forces the wealthy to finally pay their share," Think Big Illinois Executive Director Quentin Fulks said in a statement. "Think Big Illinois applauds the members of the Senate who stood up for our middle and working-class families and voted to pass the fair tax resolution."

Pritzker, a Democrat, says 97% of taxpayers would see no tax increases. The plan would need voter approval in November 2020 if it's next approved by the House.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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