Suburban Democrat's opposition kills millionaires tax

Updated 4/10/2014 6:16 AM
  • Scott Drury

    Scott Drury

  • Jack Franks

    Jack Franks

SPRINGFIELD -- Two suburban Democrats' opposition to House Speaker Michael Madigan's so-called millionaires tax effectively kills the controversial proposal for now.

State Reps. Scott Drury of Highwood and Jack Franks of Marengo say they won't vote for the proposal, which would have added a 3 percent tax to yearly income of more than $1 million as a way to raise more money for Illinois schools.

There are 71 Democrats in the Illinois House, the same number of supporters Madigan needs to approve an amendment to the Illinois Constitution. Without all the Democrats, the plan likely isn't going anywhere.

Facing a 2011 income tax hike that expires at the end of the year, lawmakers are scrambling to figure out how to move forward, and Madigan's millionaires tax was in the mix until Wednesday.

No Republicans were expected to vote for the plan, making it impossible to approve, Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said.

"So that's pretty much the end of that proposal for this cycle," he said.

Brown attacked Republicans, not Drury and Franks, saying the GOP was choosing millionaires over children.

Drury said he objects to the myriad tax and budget proposals being done individually and outside of a comprehensive budget package.

"The problem with these stand-alone proposals is that no one knows what the final product looks like," Drury said in a statement. "We cannot rebuild Illinois' fiscal house without a comprehensive plan, yet that is what we are being asked to do."

Franks said he told Madigan last week he couldn't vote for it.

Drury represents a House district that spans some of the North Shore in Lake and Cook counties, starting at North Chicago, running south to Glencoe and including parts of Deerfield, Highland Park, Lake Forest and other suburbs.

Franks' district is in McHenry County.

State Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican, doesn't see GOP support for Madigan's tax proposal at this time. Republicans have attacked the idea as a jobs killer that could raise taxes on small business owners.

"From what I've seen so far, all Republicans are opposed to it," McSweeney said.

The death of the millionaires tax shows how difficult it could be for Democrats to unify behind any tax or budget proposal this year even though the party holds historic majorities in the House and Senate. The party has enough representation to override Gov. Pat Quinn's vetoes and send constitutional amendments to the November ballot without help from Republicans.

Still, as lawmakers face contentious election battles in the coming months, any controversial plan will take significant political wrangling in order to survive.

Many saw Madigan's millionaires tax as a populist proposal aimed directly at Quinn's November opponent, wealthy Republican businessman Bruce Rauner of Winnetka.

On taxes, Quinn has proposed making the 2011 tax increase permanent and warned of deep, severe budget cuts to schools if lawmakers don't act.

Other Democrats have backed a plan to charge higher tax rates on incomes more than $180,000 per year, but Republicans are in a good position to block that, too.

And third-party groups have shown in the March primary they're willing to spend money in Illinois elections to support or oppose candidates depending on their votes on major issues.

"Rep. Drury and Rep. Franks should be commended for siding with taxpayers and small businesses by taking a courageous stand against this proposal," David From, director of the conservative Americans for Prosperity's political arm, said in a statement.

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