Opinion | Brett Rowland: Get ready for Democrats' aggressive push to pass progressive income tax
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Opinion | Brett Rowland: Get ready for Democrats' aggressive push to pass progressive income tax

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker's progressive income tax proposal to hike takes by $3 billion a year was barely mentioned in his State of the State address, but voters can expect a full-court press from Democrats in the lead up to the November election.

The governor and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly have made the progressive income tax the linchpin for their spending plans going forward. The proposed constitutional amendment would scrap the state's existing flat income tax and allow lawmakers to create a graduated income tax system with higher rates for higher earners.

The initial tax rates lawmakers have set for the proposed graduated tax system would deliver slight tax cuts to most taxpayers. However, those who earn more than $250,000 a year would see significant tax increases.

More worrisome is that state lawmakers would have the ability to change the tax rates and income brackets with a simple majority at any time. That's a lot of power for lawmakers who have shown time and time again that the only thing they know how to do is spend money. It's only a matter of time before middle-class families will be forced to pay more in taxes to cover the bill for the state's reckless spending.

Right now, the only thing standing in the way is the state's constitution, which mandates a flat income tax levied on everyone, regardless of income. In November, voters will be asked to decide whether to change the state's constitution. And the bar for that is high. To pass, the amendment would need 60 percent of the votes on the measure itself or a simple majority of all of those voting in the election.

Given the higher hurdle, expect Democrats to resort to any means necessary to try to persuade voters to give up the protection afforded by the flat tax in favor of a blank check for state lawmakers.

Pritzker has already shown that he's willing to cross the line. In November, Pritzker used a taxpayer-funded Governor’s Office of Management and Budget report to tout the need for a progressive income tax. The report outlined the new revenue that a progressive income tax plan would bring in, used Pritzker’s “Fair Tax” verbiage, and claimed the state’s fiscal future was dependent on the passage of the amendment.

In the coming months, wary taxpayers should be on guard for legislative tricks of every stripe.

Illinoisans who don't want to hand over more of their money to the state will have to show up in force this November.

Brett Rowland is Illinois editor of The Center Square, a project of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, a non-profit media company dedicated to the principles of transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility. His columns include his own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinion or editorial position of The Southern. Contact Brett at browland@ilnews.org.

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