Lawmakers debate tax reform amid $1.5 billion in unexpected reve - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Lawmakers debate tax reform amid $1.5 billion in unexpected revenue

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(WSIL) -- Illinois got $1.5 billion more money that in it expected from income taxes in April, leading Republican leaders to declare there is no need for new taxes.

"There's no need to talk about raising taxes on bag, cigarettes, businesses or the middle class," House Minority Leader Jim Durkin said. "And there's certainly no reason to even be considering a graduated tax now."

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the revenue windfall will cover this year's budget deficit, and ultimately help Illinois cover it's pension obligations next year.

"It plugs one hole in a very, very leaky boat," State Sen. Toi Hutchison, (D) Chicago Heights, said. "We have a lot to make up."

State Sen. Don Harmon, (D) Oak Lawn, said Republicans don't understand how bad the financial picture is.

"It's easy for the Republicans to say they don't like this but they haven't offered a plan. They haven't come out in favor of any alternatives to the fair tax," Harmon said. "It's easier to be a critic. It's much harder to solve problems."

Democrats are pushing a change to the income tax, going from a flat tax to a graduated tax, or what Democrats call the "fair tax."  

It's where different income levels pay different rates: the more you earn, the more you pay.

Harmon said the graduated income tax would shore up Illinois finances and eventually lead to property tax reform.

"We can't necessarily do it all at once, and the fair tax is absolutely the precursor to tackling out of control property taxes in the state of Illinois," Harmon said.

A two-thirds majority is required in both chambers to even get the tax change question on the ballot for voters to decide next year, and reports say there's at least two Democrats in the House that might vote against it.

Lawmakers have until the end of May to agree on a plan, unless the governor decides to call lawmakers back to Springfield for a special session.

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