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updated: 2/11/2014 6:31 PM

DuPage takes symbolic stand against progressive tax

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With some lawmakers expected to push this year for a graduated state income tax, the DuPage County Board is making it clear it wants Illinois' flat income tax to remain in place.

Board members on Tuesday voted 14-3 to adopt a resolution opposing a constitutional amendment that would create an income tax system where those who earn more money would pay a greater percentage in taxes to the state.

The resolution, which all three Democrats on the county board opposed, is a symbolic gesture. But supporters say the vote was needed to send a message to state legislators from DuPage.

"The hardworking taxpayers of DuPage County deserve to have representatives who work on their behalf and in their best interest," board member Tonia Khouri said. "This progressive tax is not in their best interest or the best interest of economic development in DuPage County."

Illinois currently has a flat personal income tax of 5 percent. But a temporary income tax hike approved in 2011 is set to drop to 3.75 percent in 2015.

If state lawmakers seek a constitutional amendment to tie tax rates to income, that amendment would need to be approved by voters in a statewide referendum before the graduated income tax could become a reality.

Khouri said thousands of small businesses in DuPage that report their income on a personal tax return would be affected by a change to a progressive tax.

"It would affect their ability to grow, expand and, most importantly, provide jobs to our residents," the Aurora Republican said.

And because the median DuPage household income is $78,000, Khouri and other board members claim a majority of taxpayers in the county would see a tax increase.

Supporters of a graduated income tax, however, argue a tax tied to income is more fair and the new rates could drop for most people. One group -- A Better Illinois -- says recent polling found 53 percent of DuPage voters support a progressive tax and 38 percent oppose it.

Board member Liz Chaplin, one of the three Democrats who opposed Tuesday's resolution, said the graduated income tax proposal gives the state the chance to address its financial needs and eventually help DuPage.

"We have transportation needs," Chaplin said. "We have public transit needs. If the state is not funded properly, our own budget could be severely infringed upon."

Chaplin said the graduated income tax is a state issue that shouldn't be addressed on the county level. "I think it's inappropriate for DuPage County to be taking this stance on this initiative," she said.

But board member Jim Zay, one of the Republicans who supported the resolution, said DuPage should weigh in on the issue because it's sending more tax money to Springfield than it gets back.

"The state doesn't have a funding problem," Zay said. "It has a spending problem. They (state lawmakers) have to balance their budget."

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