Top Democrats push millionaire tax; GOP wants term limits

  • Illinois lawmakers started debating the so-called millionaires tax again this year.

      Illinois lawmakers started debating the so-called millionaires tax again this year. Gilbert R. Boucher | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/20/2015 5:41 PM

People who make more than $1 million per year would pay more in taxes after their incomes reached seven figures under a plan that lawmakers started considering Wednesday.

A top lieutenant to House Speaker Michael Madigan started moving the constitutional amendment Wednesday, but its eventual fate remains unclear. State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie argued that most Illinois voters said "yes" to an advisory question on the so-called millionaires tax in November.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The plan would add a 3 percent tax to annual incomes over $1 million and send the money generated to Illinois schools.

Business leaders pushed back, saying the idea would be "another nail in the coffin" for businesses considering leaving Illinois. And they echoed last year's criticisms of the 2014 referendum as a populist political move.

"It's an easy vote to say yes to, much like being able to say: 'Tax somebody else to take care of the problems that we face in this state,'" Illinois Manufacturers Association President Greg Baise said.

Currie disagreed, saying she doubted people would move.

"They tend to migrate to places where there are good, strong public services," she said.

The amendment was approved by an Illinois House committee Wednesday, sending it to the full House for further debate. The plan didn't have enough votes to succeed last year, and its prospects in the Senate are unclear. If lawmakers approve, voters would have to OK the amendment on the 2016 ballot.

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That means lawmakers wouldn't see money from the new tax this year, when they're sparring with Gov. Bruce Rauner over a spending plan.

That sparring now includes Republicans renewing their call for term limits on state officials. A group of GOP House freshmen led by state Rep. Steve Andersson of Geneva said ongoing gridlock shows that lawmakers should have term limits.

Andersson's effort would also require a constitutional amendment, and his plan would limit lawmakers to 12 years in either the House or Senate or 16 combined years in both.

Term limits, pushed by Rauner in the 2014 campaign, haven't been seriously considered by Democrats who control the House and Senate. Andersson said rank-and-file lawmakers of both parties have been able to agree on legislation.

"But when you get to leadership and power, it simply breaks down," he said.

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