(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he is not worried that the chances of voters passing his progressive income tax amendment in November could be hurt by the corruption scandal around ComEd and the chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois.
Pritzker ran on changing the state constitution’s flat income tax to a structure with higher rates for higher earners. Without Republican support, the proposed constitutional amendment passed the legislature in 2019 and was put in line to be on the General Election 2020 ballot this November.
Earlier this month, ComEd agreed to pay $200 million for its role in a years-long corruption bribing associates close to Illinois House Speaker and Democratic Party of Illinois Chairman Michael Madigan. Madigan hasn’t been charged with a crime but some foresee charges coming down anytime.
Madigan has refused to step down despite growing calls from all sides for him to do so.
Several Democratic state Representatives who support the progressive income tax amendment suggested if Madigan were to stay in power, it could hurt some of their priorities.
State Rep. Jonathan “Yoni” Pizer, D-Chicago, who was appointed to his position and lost a primary, said in a statement Madigan needs to resign from his leadership positions.
“We must ensure the passage of the Fair Tax ...,” Pizer said. “With these allegations and previous ones relating to harassment, corruption and mismanagement, I am troubled by the Speaker’s failure to live up to the high ethical standards that the people of Illinois rightfully deserve from their political leaders.”
“There is simply too much at stake in this historical moment, and we cannot tolerate any unnecessary distraction from the important work at hand,” he said.
Pizer’s comments followed similar statements from state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, and other members of the House Democratic caucus.
Asked Friday if having Madigan stay in power hurts the chances of the progressive income tax, Pritzker put more weight on the character of other Democrats on the ballot.
"I think the values of Democrats and the quality of the candidates that we've put forward for offices in not just the General Assembly but up and down the ticket, and not to mention the leader of our ticket this year Joe Biden, that we demonstrate that these are high-quality people with real values and a mission to lift up working families,” Pritzker said. “That's why people are going to show up and vote. That's why I think people will vote for a fair tax system."
"Every week brings with it more news further illustrating that the Democratic Party in Illinois is a crime ring masquerading as a political party," Illinois Republican Party spokesman Joe Hackler said. "Despite Speaker Madigan being directly implicated in a decades-long bribery scheme, a grand total of only seven democratic legislators have called for him to step down, while the Governor continues to stand by his political ally. We are confident the people of Illinois will not entrust more of their hard-earned money to the Madigan-Pritzker dynamic duo, both of whom are under federal investigation."
Pritzker's property tax issues from years ago where he got a tax break for removing a toilet from a spare mansion is reportedly being reviewed by law enforcement. The governor has said a review will show he did everything correctly despite paying back more than $300,000 to Cook County.
Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Maisch told WMAY on Friday that asking voters to increase taxes on small businesses wasn't the right thing at a time when economic data shows a historic plummet in the nation’s gross domestic product of nearly 33 percent driven by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The progressive income tax that’s on the ballot in November, we’ve got to go ahead and pull that back,” Maisch said. “That’s going to punish job creators, again, small businesses, medium-size businesses, that are going to see that higher income tax. We’ve got to pull back that. It’s a terrible idea, period, and especially in this time period.”
Voters will get to vote on the progressive tax amendment on Nov. 3.