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Illinois Senate moves Gov. Pritzker’s graduated income tax plan forward; measure now goes to the House

Democrats in the Illinois Senate used their supermajority to push forward legislation Wednesday paving the way for a graduated-rate state income tax — Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s top legislative priority — but the plan faces an uncertain future in the House.

With a 40-19 straight party-line vote, Senate Democrats exceeded the three-fifths majority required to approve a proposed amendment that would eliminate the Illinois Constitution’s flat tax requirement and allow for a structure that charges higher rates on higher incomes. That measure must be approved by the same margin in the Democrat-controlled House and then would go before voters in the November 2020 election.

Again without any Republican votes, Senate Democrats passed a package of bills that would take effect only if voters approve the constitutional amendment. The first establishes a new graduated rate structure that would bring in an estimated $3.3 billion in new state revenue by raising taxes on people earning more than $250,000 a year while giving a modest break to the other 97 percent of taxpayers.

The other bills — aimed at winning over reluctant Democrats and appeasing angry taxpayers — would freeze school district property tax rates if the state meets its education funding obligations and eliminate the estate tax, a long-held Republican priority. While Democrats were united in support of the proposed amendment, a handful joined Republicans in opposing the three other measures.

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