Illinois House Republicans Pledge To Oppose Progressive State Income Tax

Apr 11, 2018

Republicans in the Illinois House say they will not support any plan to change the state’s income tax from a flat rate to a graduated system.
Credit Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Illinois House Republicans introduced a resolution Tuesday opposing a progressive income tax — even though Democrats in the General Assembly haven’t been actively pursuing it.

The resolution doesn’t carry much weight — it’s not legislation — but it is part of a coordinated set of talking points used by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.

A graduated plan taxes different levels of income at different rates. Such a plan would require changing the state constitution, which would ultimately have to be approved by voters. 

Democrats don't seem to be actively pushing the change this spring but House Republican leader Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, said it’s best to try to stop them now.

“They [Democrats] are not going to pass a progressive tax without having more money to spend. It’s in their DNA, it’s in their body. It’s how they operate," Durkin said.

Durkin also said having a flat tax sets Illinois apart. “Believe it or not, the fact that we do not have a progressive tax here in Illinois is actually something that makes us an attractive state.”

The resolution is supported by 50 of the 51 Republicans in the House. The only Republican left to join his colleagues, Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights, could not be reached for comment.

J.B. Pritzker, the Democratic candidate for governor, has made the graduated income tax plan part of his campaign, while Rauner calls it a “disaster” for Illinois residents.

In an e-mailed statement, Rauner said he supports the House Republicans' approach.

"We need to send a message that emptying our citizens’ pockets with new taxes is not the solution to our problems," the statement read.

Yet, a poll last year by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute showed 72 percent of voters support changing the state constitution to allow a progressive tax. Twenty-four percent are opposed. 

Groups like the Responsible Budget Coalition and the Fair Tax Now campaign have said a progressive tax would provide tax breaks for working-class families while being fair.