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Madigan revives millionaire tax, seeks voter input this fall

SPRINGFIELD-House Speaker Michael Madigan Thursday dusted off his earlier attempt to amend the state constitution to allow a 3-percent “surcharge” on millionaires, advancing a watered-down plan to put that question to voters this fall in an advisory referendum.

His plan, which moved out of the House Revenue & Finance Committee on a 6-4 roll call and now moves to the House floor, comes after Madigan earlier this month failed to line up enough votes to have the issue drafted as a constitutional amendment that would go before voters on the Nov. 4 ballot.

“I would have preferred we would have been able to find 71 votes in the House to put a constitutional amendment question to the voters in November. We weren’t able to do that. Consequently, I’m offering this advisory question, which, if successful, would help in the next session of the General Assembly pass a constitutional amendment,” Madigan said.

Under his plan, those making seven-digit salaries would collectively generate $1.05 billion annually for elementary and secondary education through the 3-percent surcharge, Madigan said.

“They’ve done pretty well in America,” he said. “We’re simply saying to them, ‘You’ve done well in this country, and we’d like to call upon you to do a little more for those who are involved in lower education, many of whom need a little help to get ahead in life.’”

During the hearing, Republicans questioned why Madigan would cede to voters a decision they themselves were elected to make and asked whether he’d agree to allow a vote on a GOP-crafted advisory referendum on permanently extending the 2011 temporary income tax, which expires in January and has hit choppy political waters.

Asked about the Republican advisory amendment plan by Rep. Ed Sullivan, R-Mundelein, Madigan signaled the tax question was off the table because only 34 House Democrats Wednesday showed a willingness to back the tax extension. Sixty votes are needed to get the plan backed by Gov. Pat Quinn out of the House.

“I think as a result of yesterday, that’s pretty much moot,” Madigan told Sullivan.

Later, however, Madigan gave a conflicting answer when pressed by Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, if the tax-extension is dead for the spring legislative session, which is scheduled to end May 31.

“Mr. McSweeney, I don’t want to be quoted as the one who killed the governor’s proposal,” Madigan said.