PI Original Josh Kalven Wednesday September 2nd, 2009, 11:40am

IL-GOV: Hynes Announces, Proposes Progressive Income Tax

On the same day that Gov. Pat Quinn released a statewide poll showing him with a 28 percent lead among Democratic primary voters, challenger Dan Hynes officially launched his gubernatorial campaign in downtown Chicago.  And the announcement came with a twist, as the Sun-...

On the same day that Gov. Pat Quinn released a statewide poll showing him with a 28 percent lead among Democratic primary voters, challenger Dan Hynes officially launched his gubernatorial campaign in downtown Chicago.  And the announcement came with a twist, as the Sun-Times Abdon Pallasch reports:

Hynes formally announced his candidacy for governor today, proposing to change the state's income tax from a flat 3 percent tax to a "progressive" tax that would top out at 7.5 percent for millionaires. [...]

Hynes said he would immediately begin campaigning to get the legislature to put the issue on the ballot.

Well, that's a bit unexpected -- particularly so when you consider that, this spring, Hynes avoided taking an explicit position on the tax proposals before the General Assembly.

The Daily Herald's John Patterson has a full rundown of the comptroller's remarks at the press event this morning.  Hynes detailed a good number of cuts and expressed support for expanding the sales tax to non-essential services.  He also estimated that his personal income tax proposal would bring in an additional $5.5 billion per year.  (The corporate tax rate would remain untouched.)

We at Progress Illinois are all for moving towards a progressive income tax in Illinois (as is Gov. Quinn, by the way).  But changing the tax structure in this fashion requires numerous steps and a considerable amount of time:

- First the General Assembly must vote to amend the state constitution, which currently mandates a flat income tax rate).

- Then the electorate must approve the amendment on Election Day 2010.

- Then the legislature must vote to actually raise the rate on high earners. 

Assuming all that happens, the new revenue likely won't surface until FY 2012 at the earliest. 

So here's the question: What does Hynes propose Quinn do to alleviate next year's budget deficit?  After all, if the legislature doesn't pass an income tax hike, the shortfall is going to be astronomical.

Also, Capitol Fax reports that Hynes called Quinn's income tax plan "regressive and unfair."  That's ridiculous.  While it wasn't ideal by any means, Quinn's original proposal would have made the current tax structure somewhat less regressive by increasing the personal exemption.  The Senate Democrats' tax plan -- which Quinn also voiced support for -- went even further by offsetting the income tax hike with targeted tax credits for low-earners.  That's about the best you can do while working under our current state constitution.

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