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updated: 4/30/2014 1:10 PM

Illinois income tax changes proposal fails

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  • Don Harmon

    Don Harmon

  • A push for a graduated income tax failed Tuesday in Springfield.

    A push for a graduated income tax failed Tuesday in Springfield.
    Associated Press File Photo

and Marty Hobe

SPRINGFIELD -- A push to change how Illinois collects income taxes and raise rates on people with larger salaries has failed for the year, putting to an end a monthslong battle and putting the focus on whether lawmakers should make the 2011 tax hike permanent.

In adjourning Tuesday without moving forward with a constitutional amendment, Democratic supporters were set to miss next week's deadline to put it on the November ballot.

The plan from state Sen. Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, would have taxed annual income up to $180,000 at 4.9 percent and income more than that at 6.9 percent.

"It has to be today," Harmon said of a potential vote.

It wasn't.

Illinois has an individual income tax rate of 5 percent, which is set to lower at the end of the year to 3.75 percent. It applies to everyone, no matter how much someone makes.

State Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican, had amassed enough names on a resolution to defeat Harmon's changes in the House, helping stymie Harmon's ability to gain momentum.

"We already have 8.4 percent unemployment," McSweeney said. "We need to cut spending."

Harmon said earlier in the day that he realized it could be hard to ask fellow Democrats in the Senate to take a tough vote if there was no hope for approval in the House. By late afternoon, the Senate adjourned without taking a vote.

Harmon said he'll try again. "We had the votes in the Senate, but we still had a few more House members to convince and without a clear path to victory I couldn't ask my colleagues in the Senate to vote for it."

The support of suburban lawmakers was crucial for each side. When two suburban Democrats in the House opposed a different plan to raise taxes on millionaires, it was declared dead almost immediately.

As lawmakers met Tuesday, hundreds of supporters flooded the Capitol chanting and asking for a chance to vote in November.

"I think by having voters here it allows lawmakers to hear what the people are saying. Right now people are at their wit's end and trying to make ends meet, and part of it is our current tax structure, which is unfair," Illinois Education Association Vice President and Schaumburg teacher Kathi Griffin said.

Gov. Pat Quinn meanwhile continues to call for lawmakers to extend the 2011 income tax hike before they're set to leave Springfield May 31.

Quinn has tried to set up the debate as a choice between keeping current tax rates or causing big cuts to schools and other state services. But Republicans have argued Illinois' economic problems can be helped if taxes go down as planned.

The campaign has played out on TV airwaves and on social media for months, with each side accusing the other of being misleading.

Supporters of the changes said it would represent a tax cut for the vast majority of Illinoisans compared to what they pay now. Critics said it would be a tax hike compared to the 3.75 percent Illinoisans are set to pay in 2015 if rates lower as current law calls for.

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