As the debate about Illinois’ income tax structure continues in the race for governor, some General Assembly candidates in contested districts are weighing in on the premise.
Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker wants to change Illinois’ flat income tax to one that taxes higher earners at higher rates. Republicans have called it a blank check for government spending because it would be politically easier to raise taxes on only some taxpayers.
Pritzker has repeatedly refused to give details about the income levels or tax rates in his plan. He has said he’ll negotiate that with lawmakers if elected.
Candidates running for seats in the General Assembly are divided on the issue.
In Illinois' 29th Senate District, State Sen. Julie Morrison, the Democratic incumbent from Deerfield, declined to comment for this article, but has expressed support for Pritzker and his plan. She told the Chicago Tribune that she would support a ballot initiative to change the state’s constitution to allow for graduated income tax rates.
Opponent Barrett Davie, a Republican, said raising taxes won't solve the state's problems. He said a progressive tax structure will mean lawmakers get to ignore the state’s growing pension crisis and need to reform it. He said he's concerned that higher taxes will push more people out of state.
“If we don’t fix this retirement system issue, if it’s not priority 1-10, I’m not really sure how we stem the tide of folks leaving the state,” Davies said.
With incumbent state Rep. Scott Drury leaving to run for attorney general, state House District 58 is wide open.
Democrat Bob Morgan’s campaign spokeswoman and former field operative for Daniel Biss’ gubernatorial campaign, Allie McRaith, said Morgan will not comment on the progressive tax issue.
His opponent, estate planning attorney Rick Lesser, isn’t opposed to a progressive tax if it means lower taxes.
“If you did a graduated income tax where you actually lowered the brackets, now we're at 5 percent, if you lowered the brackets where people making under $50,000 paid 3 percent, the old rate,” he said. “I would not be opposed to that but I don’t think we could do that at this time.”
Lesser said that he’s against any tax increase on the citizens of Illinois, saying that any effort to tax higher earners more would only serve to expedite the state’s population losses.
Election Day is November 6th.