Friday, May 23, 2014

Voters may get a say on millionaire tax

By Caitlin Rydinsky

The House voted Friday in favor of allowing Illinoisans to voice their opinion on the November ballot about a proposal to tax income over $1 million at a higher rate.

House Speaker Michael Madigan sponsored House Bill 3816, which would allow for a advisory ballot question to ask voters what they think of a proposed additional three percent tax on income over $1 million. The revenue would be distributed to schools based on the number of students. Madigan proposed the tax as a constitutional amendment but was unable to get the support needed for it to pass. 

Homewood Democratic Rep. William Davis, who is chairman of the House education budgeting committee, said cutting more money from education would hinder the children within schools throughout the state. “This bill is a moderate request of those who earn billions, hundreds of millions, from the people of our state.”

Republican Rep. Mike Bostf Murphysboro questioned if the potential revenue would actually be used for education. He said: “Folks, we taxed the people of the state, and from what I have seen it has not been invested in education of the state. And yet we want a referendum to tax millionaires in the state. It is easy to target the millionaires of the state.” Republicans say that such a tax would result in job lose and a decrease in revenues generated to the state because of closures, layoffs or large businesses not coming to the state. Republicans said that because the original amendment did not have the support to pass, there is no reason to take the issue the public. But Madigan says he is confident that voters would respond differently than lawmakers on the nonbinding ballot question. “I think the Illinois voter is an intelligent and informed voter, and more than willing to participate in the electoral process.” Madigan said that the question would allow voters to help legislators make a decision on the bill after the election.

Rep. Ron Sandack, a Republican from Downers Grove, said that the ballot question and with another proposal from Madigan that would ask voters about increasing the minimum wage are politically motivated to get Democratic voters out to the polls in November. He said that Madigan's  efforts to allow for voter input were sincere,  the two citizens’ initiatives for constitutional amendments would not be facing a court challenge filed by a lawyer with close ties to Madigan. Groups supporting term limits and a change to the way the state draws it legislative districts both collected signatures to put proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot. The groups’ petitions are currently being reviewed by the Illinois State Board of Election.

If the legislation passes the in Senate and is signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, voters will be able to weigh in on the additional tax for the affluent during the November election.

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