Graduated Income Tax Fight Starting Soon

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he will cast a vote for Chicago’s next mayor, but he won’t say for who.

His endorsement would be valuable to Lori Lightfoot or Toni Preckwinkle – Pritzker has both political cache and a boatload of cash.

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“I intend to work with whoever the winner is, so my intention is to stay out,” Pritzker said Thursday. “Unlike, you know, the previous governor my job it to work with the mayor of Chicago to make things happen.”

Perhaps, the most major thing Pritzker wants to make happen: A graduated income tax.

There's no hurry from a legislative standpoint. To do it, voters would have to approve a constitutional amendment on the next statewide ballot, which isn't until November of 2020.

But Pritzker appears to be going full steam ahead, and signaled he wants to dig into the nuts and bolts soon.

He said he plans to meet with legislative leaders to begin negotiating possible rates within the next couple of weeks.

Already every Republican member of the Illinois House has announced opposition to moving away from a flat tax rate. The longer income tax brackets are public, the easier it'll be for critics to attack.

Pritzker could be rushing it along some 45 days into the job, because he’s still in a “honeymoon” phase. He may also see his overwhelming election victory as a sign of popular support, and if he’s able to follow through on a pledge to provide a tax program that would lower the bills for members of the middle class it could be reassuring to voters.

Another major reason may be to provide reassurances to another crucial audience: credit rating agencies, which have all but said that Illinois’ credit will be downgraded to junk status if Pritzker’s budget proposal, introduced last week, passes as-is.

Standard & Poor described the plan as a “multi-year strategy whose success hinges on a tough campaign” to move to a progressive tax and that “Illinois has a track record of leaving difficult fiscal choices to future budgets.”

Pritzker, who regularly criticized his predecessor for Illinois credit downgrades under Gov. Bruce Rauner’s watch, didn’t appear to be moved by those warnings.

“Their interest, of course, is bringing revenue as fast as humanly possible, they don’t really care so much whether it affects the middle class and those striving to get there,” he said. “I understand their perspective, they’re all about the investors. That’s really who they are speaking to. Who I’m speaking to are the middle class, the working class, people who’ve been put upon by an unfair tax system.”  

Meanwhile, a coalition of environmental and energy groups backed a newly introduced bill, Senate Bill 2132 / House Bill 3624. The massive package calls for Illinois getting 100 percent of its energy from renewable resources by the year 2050.

“Illinois remains one of the highest polluters in the country and we have an opportunity to change that,” said Juliana Pino of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

Related stories:

Dark Money at Play as Graduated Income Tax Fight Begins

Lightfoot vs. Preckwinkle in Chicago Mayoral Runoff

Pritkzer’s ‘Austere’ Budget Relies on Pension Plan, New Taxes

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