The DuPage County Board publicly opposes amending the Illinois Constitution to allow for a graduated income tax rate in Illinois after making a party-line decision at a meeting Tuesday morning.
The 14 to 3 vote came after weeks of presentations and public hearings on the subject, led by the board’s economic development and legislative committees.
Two bills have been introduced in the Illinois House and Senate that would allow Illinois voters to decide whether to amend the state constitution, removing a provision that specifies income taxes must be flat, according to the Illinois General Assembly website.
Such a change could open the door for future discussions about a progressive income tax, which would set higher rates for the wealthy and lower rates for those with less income.
While some board members argued the issue was a state one, Economic Development Chair Tonia Khouri said that, because such as change would effect its constituents, it was the board’s job to provide input.
“A hard-working taxpayer of DuPage County deserves to have representatives who work on their behalf and in their best interest,” she said. “And this progressive tax is not in their best interest or the best interest of the economic development of DuPage County.”
Khouri said raising personal income taxes on wealthier brackets could mean the typical taxpayer in DuPage County, where the average household income is $78,000 a year, would be disproportionately effected.
In addition, the presence of 17,000 “S corporations” in the county, whose owners claim business profit as part of their personal income tax payments, means many small businesses will be similarly impacted.
Board member Gary Grasso said that, while he wanted to err on the side of letting voters decide, he didn’t trust the legislators in the General Assembly to make responsible decisions about the matter.
“This state has given our trust repeatedly to the people in Springfield, and they have rewarded that trust with nothing but bad government, high taxes and policies that are destroying this state,” he said.
The board’s three Democrats, Liz Chaplin, Tony Michelassi and Laurie Nowak voted against the measure.
“I’m proud to be a DuPage County Board member, because nobody sitting in this body today is anti-business,” Michelassi said. “Nobody wants to see our state create a climate that harms the businesses here in DuPage and nobody on this board wants to increase taxes on our residents.”
But a vote against the possibility of a graduated income tax, especially when no official plans or rates had been set, was overly argumentative and decisive too early, he said.
Chairman Dan Cronin said the vote was in line with the county’s fight reduce the size, scope and cost of government.
He also added he was “astounded” that any DuPage elected official would vote for a graduated income tax, because it would likely mean a tax increase on those they represent – even if the tax rates hadn’t been set yet.
“It’s sort of like somebody asking ‘Do you want to buy this house? I’m not going to tell you what the price is, but do you want to buy it?’” he said. “Nobody in their right mind would buy a house if they didn’t know the price of the house, no matter how attractive the house is.”
To read the relevant proposed constitutional amendment bills, HJRCA 33 and SJRCA 40, visit www.ilga.gov.
Tax hike expiration
Currently, a 2011 state income tax hike is set to expire in 2015, potentially lowering state income taxes from 5 to 3.75 percent for individuals and 7 to 5.25 percent for corporations.
All 47 Republicans in the Illinois House of Representatives have announced their opposition to the graduated income tax proposal, according to a news release from the office of House Republican Leader Jim Durkin. House Democrats will have to ensure all 71 of its members vote for the proposal for it to pass with a three-fifths majority vote.