FILE - IL Gov. J.B. Pritzker signing progressive income tax, 6-5-19

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs the state budget and legislation related to a graduated income tax in Illinois, during a bill signing Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at the Thompson Center in Chicago.

(The Center Square) – A nonprofit group filed a lawsuit Monday challenging the wording of the progressive income tax amendment on election ballots ahead of the Nov. 3 vote.

Three Cook County retirees joined the Illinois Policy Institute in a civil complaint filed Monday against Secretary of State Jesse White and the state Board of Elections challenging the claim on the ballot that the progressive tax amendment only grants lawmakers the power to impose higher income tax rates on higher income levels.

"The information the government shared with voters on the progressive tax is wildly biased and misrepresents what this amendment would do," Vice President of Marketing Austin Berg said. “Not only does the amendment hand lawmakers the power to tax any income level at any rate, but it also allows for the implementation of a new retirement tax, as Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss and other political leaders have made clear.”  

The ballot measure would repeal the state’s constitutional requirement that the state’s personal income tax is a flat rate across income. Instead, the ballot measure would allow the state to enact legislation for a graduated income tax.

Of particular concern to the plaintiffs is that the progressive tax amendment opens the door for the General Assembly to impose a new income tax rate on retirement income. Berg said while retirement income is currently exempt from taxation, the amendment would give Springfield new powers to tax retirement income at different rates that other forms of income.

“That is why retirees have joined us in this lawsuit,” Berg said. “It would make it far easier to tax the income of retirees, not just people with high incomes. That’s the most misleading part.”

Quentin Fulks, chairman of the group “Vote Yes for Fairness,” called the lawsuit a stunt. 

“When the facts aren’t on your side, you’re forced to rely on blatant stunts and outright lies, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing from the Illinois Policy Institute today," Fulks said in a statement. "This is just the latest attempt by an organization bankrolled by the wealthiest people in the state to ensure the burden remains on middle and working-class families, while millionaires and billionaires avoid paying their fair share.”

The suit was filed days after the disclosure of $26.7 million in spending against the graduated income tax amendment by conservative activist Ken Griffin. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has so far poured in $56 million of his own money into a group founded by his deputy campaign manager in favor of the tax change.

Staff Reporter

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.