GOP: Graduated tax ‘cash grab’ will stifle pandemic recovery

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin said this week’s special session in Springfield should consider dumping the plan to alter the state Constitution and discard the current flat-rate income tax.

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A protester holds a sign during a rally calling for the state to reopen the economy, Saturday, May 16, 2020, outside the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois Republicans on Monday demanded a vote in the General Assembly on removing from the fall ballot Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax structure, saying the state’s pandemic-pillaged economy can’t sustain higher taxes.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin and Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady said the special session this week in Springfield should consider dumping the plan to alter the state Constitution and discard the current flat-rate income tax. Right now, it’s up to voters in the fall election.

The discarded 4.95% tax rate would be replaced with graduated rates that take a bigger chunk of salary as incomes rise, which the Democratic governor calls a “fair tax” and Durkin called a “cash grab” that will destroy the state’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People looking to buy a house or locate a business in Illinois will look elsewhere, driving down the real estate demand,” Durkin said. “It will hit our farmers who have sacrificed so much and are already dealing with massive supply chain disruptions and depressed commodity prices. It will cripple our manufacturers who provide so many jobs.”

Democrats who control the General Assembly, which hasn’t met in the Capitol since early March, scheduled a three-day session after establishing extraordinary safety precautions against the virus’s spread. The agenda includes approving a state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, dealing with legislation that would extend necessary laws set to expire, and craft relief packages for families and small businesses damaged financially by the pandemic.

Pritzker has repeatedly rejected the notion of dropping the amendment, saying that its graduated rates would generate a much-needed $3 billion extra annually while contending that 97% of taxpayers who make less than $250,000 will continue to pay the current 4.95% tax rate, or less.

“Times have changed dramatically since this initiative was first put forward ...,” Brady said. “Never more has our state and its economy been challenged as it is today. The people in Illinois are speaking out about the real focus of what we need to be doing and that’s defeating the virus and rebuilding the economy.”

State law does not specify a deadline for removing a question that’s been certified for a particular election, according to Matt Dietrich, spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections.

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