Voters get to weigh in on additional millionaire tax

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Surrounded by children in a Berwyn gymnasium, Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday signed an advisory measure that will ask voters in November if they believe millionaires should be taxed at a higher rate than others to help fund schools.

“I think our tax system should be fair and based on ability to pay. It’s a principle as old as the Bible,” Quinn said during the ceremony at Irving Elementary School. “If President Teddy Roosevelt was here today he would be right next to me saying, ‘Sign that bill, have that referendum.’”

If voters do approve the measure, the results will be non-binding. That means the General Assembly would ultimately have to pass the 3 percent income tax hike on annual incomes greater than $1 million that is called for under the referendum.

Such a tax could raise $1 billion a year, according to the Illinois Department of Revenue.

The Millionaires Tax referendum, as it is called, was sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. It is just the latest populist measure signed by Quinn. Earlier this summer Quinn also signed another advisory referendum asking voters if the minimum wage should be increased to $10.The measures have prompted Republicans to claim that Democrats are attempting to use class warfare to turn out the vote against Quinn’s wealthy opponent, Bruce Rauner. In a statement on Tuesday, his campaign called the referendum “toothless” and added that it “doesn’t make up for the $500 million Pat Quinn cut from education.”

But Quinn dismissed those claims.

“There’s only one way to get [a] movement going, and it’s at the ballot box,” Quinn said. “I’ve devoted a long number of my years fighting for fairness, and I think this is a very good way to make sure Illinois funds schools for a fair system.”

Quinn also had some harsh words for Walgreens, the Deerfield-based company that is considering relocating to Europe to avoid billions in taxes, while still reaping profits from U.S. Medicaid and Medicare spending.

Quinn suggested Walgreens “fleeing our country to stash money in foreign countries” would be unpatriotic.

“Mr. Walgreen I think would be very unhappy to hear that they are even considering moving to Switzerland,” Quinn said. “We can’t have corporate deserters leaving our country trying to go elsewhere to pay less than they should in taxes that support America. The patriotic thing to do is to stay right here in the good ‘ol USA.”

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