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Targeting millionaires, Madigan unwilling to reveal his own taxes

After proposing a 3-percent surcharge on Illinois’ millionaires, House Speaker Michael Madigan Friday rejected a request to release his own 2012 income-tax returns to shed a more clear public understanding of how he would fare under his own constitutional amendment.

“He doesn’t have any interest in doing that,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Illinois had 13,675 people in calendar year 2011 who reported net income of $1 million or more, but it’s not clear whether Madigan himself was one of those people.

In Springfield, the speaker said Thursday that “in a good year” he might make $1 million, but that vague assessment of his own finances is as much information as Madigan is willing to offer to Illinois voters.

The proposed constitutional amendment is widely seen as part of a coordinated effort by Democrats in Springfield to sharpen focus on Republican Bruce Rauner’s immense wealth, which they hope will be a wedge issue with voters that will help re-elect Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn this fall to a second full term in office.

Brown said the speaker has refused over the years to release his income taxes. The Sun-Times asked Brown Friday to pose the question to the speaker again about releasing his taxes now that his proposed constitutional amendment is on the table and could be heard next week in a House committee.

“I have, and he won’t,” Brown said. “I’ll decline that opportunity.”

Pressed for specifics on why Madigan has no interest in making his personal finances public, Brown answered, “He doesn’t think that’s an appropriate thing to do.”

Madigan’s plan, which would require supermajority votes in both the House and Senate by May 4 to get on the November ballot, would impose a 3-percent surcharge on anyone reporting more than $1 million in income.

The Southwest Side Democrat wants to channel the estimated $1 billion in revenue that might be generated from his plan to education.

Releasing tax returns is a standard practice among many running for public office. Doing so can give voters a revealing glimpse into how good of a steward a candidate seeking control of the public’s pursestrings is with his or her own money. Releasing tax returns also can show potential conflicts of interest.

Republican Bruce Rauner has made public three years of his tax returns, and Gov. Pat Quinn has released his taxes every year he’s been governor.