State

Bill to change Illinois Constitution to allow progressive income tax dies in state House

Jack Franks instrumental in keeping flat tax over graduated income tax

Attempts to ask voters in November to change the Illinois Constitution to allow for a graduated income tax died Wednesday in the state House.

The legislation by state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, sought to create tiers of income tax rates based on how much an individual, family or small-business owner earns. Higher-wage earners would pay as much as 9.5 percent, while the state's lowest earners would pay 3.5 percent.

State Reps. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, and David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, called the proposed graduated tax a jobs killer because of its potential impact on small businesses. Both said they were grateful it died before being called for a vote.

"We ran the clock out on it," McSweeney said, referring to the strict rules required to pass a constitutional amendment out of the General Assembly to get it on the Nov. 8 ballot. "Without Jack, this progressive income tax very well could have been approved."

A supermajority was needed in both the House and the Senate to get the measure on the November ballot. That’s 71 votes in the House, where there are exactly 71 Democrats. If no Republicans flipped, Franks' vote was needed to move it to the Senate.

With the progressive tax debate over for the session, both Franks and McSweeney called for Gov. Bruce Rauner to keep lawmakers in Springfield to work on a state budget. Illinois has been operating without a budget since the start of the fiscal year last July 1.

"We both call for the governor to keep us here until we adopt a budget," Franks said.

The local lawmakers also criticized ad-hoc groups of legislators and state government staffers who have been meeting behind closed doors to work out potential budget solutions. Media reports this week said the groups have been discussing income tax increases as well as the creation of a sales tax on services.

"I'm very disturbed about these secret groups meeting to plot a tax increase," McSweeney said. "Bring it out in the open. Be transparent about it."

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