Now that voters will get to decide if Illinois’ flat income tax should be changed to a progressive one, Illinois Democrats have promised to address the state’s second-highest-in-the-nation property taxes with a property tax task force.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Democrats celebrated the passage of the progressive income tax constitutional amendment Monday afternoon in the governor’s office.

During floor debate in the House before the celebration, Republicans said that because of years of Democratic rule and fiscal irresponsibility, Illinois taxpayers don’t trust state government with more of their money. Pritzker said Democrats should be trusted.

“Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility,” Pritzker said. “We’re the ones trying to pay down the debts, the $10 billion of additional short-term debt that was left by the last governor.”

Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Maisch disagreed. He said Democrats caused a lot of the state’s fiscal problems. But he said Monday’s passage to the November 2020 ballot for voters to make the final decision is in opponents favor because they now have a full year to highlight the pitfalls for voters before the election.

“I think the voters will go ahead and wise up,” Maisch said. “They don’t trust what happens in this building with their money and I think we’re going to carry the day.”

Maisch also said there were concerns that the proposed amendment could open up the possibility the same dollar would be taxed more than once.

“There are two things that are going to happen. No. 1 it won’t be an income tax increase it will be a special assessment for public safety, same thing though,” Maisch said. “But more problematic is the fact that the legislature could pick certain kinds of income to go ahead and tax. So if you happen to have a rental property, you’re going to go ahead and have your basic tax bill, but then you can go ahead and have to pay a second tax on that rental income and really it’s unlimited. Right now that can’t happen. This amendment does away with that taxpayer protection.”

He said the amendment will open the door for the legislature to further change the state's tax code.

During the three-hour debate on the progressive tax amendment, state Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, said the progressive tax wasn't the answer to reducing the overall tax burden on Illinoisans.

“How about property tax reform? One of the things that we know drives Illinois taxpayers to other states,” Wheeler said. “Is there a cap in here? Is there any kind of relief, any reform whatsoever?”

Despite several House Democrats insisting on property tax relief from as part progressive income tax package, they ended up voting for the proposed amendment. State Rep. Jonathan Carroll, D-Northbrook, said they’ve got a plan.

“Were going to form a property tax task force to review how we tax in Illinois for property taxes and make sure that we do it better and we do it right,” Carroll said.

It’s now on to voters on the November 2020 ballot whether Illinois’ flat tax should change to a structure with higher rates for higher earners where it would take three-fifths majority voting for the amendment for it to be approved.


Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.