Legislature Considering 3 Constitutional Amendments

Date: May 03, 2016 Last Edit: May 05, 2016

Progressive income tax, legislative boundaries, and Lt. Gov. role up for discussion.

Legislature Considering 3 Constitutional Amendments

The
Illinois Legislature faces a fast-approaching deadline to get constitutional
amendments on the ballot, but if both the House and the Senate approve the
measures being considered by May 9, voters will have some important decisions
to make in November.

 Here’s
a look at the three proposed amendments.

 Redistricting

 Under
Illinois’ current redistricting process, the General Assembly drafts the
state’s legislative boundaries every decade after the release of the Census,
using input from both parties to create a fair map that goes to the governor
for final approval. If legislators cannot come to an agreement, a backup
commission made of eight members takes over the remapping.

 The
House and the Senate have each approved two separate proposals to change the
current system, which critics say favors incumbents and hampers political
competition. Under the Senate bill, both chambers would draw their own maps
based on feedback from public hearings and a final decision would be made by an
independent “special master” appointed by the state Supreme Court if
legislators and the governor couldn’t come to a consensus. The House bill would
create a bipartisan commission appointed by the state Supreme Court to draw the
map.

 However,
there is another movement to reform the redistricting process going on—the
Independent Map Amendment petition drive led by a variety of citizen groups—and
Republican legislators have said that it would be best not to dilute that
effort. Supporters of the Independent Map need 300,000 signatures to get the
amendment on the November ballot.

 Elimination
of Lieutenant Governor Position

The
proposal to get rid of the No. 2 state leadership role beginning in 2019 (and
save $1.6 million) has generated a lot of debate, mostly centered around the
succession plan. If the governor were no longer able to serve, the next person
in line would be the attorney general. Opponents have expressed concern that
this could lead to a situation that puts a different political party in charge
than the one chosen by voters.

 While
the Senate rejected the bill, the House passed a similar proposal, meaning the
Senate will have another chance to vote on it. If it passes with 3/5 of the
vote, the measure will go to the ballot this fall.

Progressive
Income Tax

The
Illinois Constitution currently requires that that income tax be applied at a
flat rate to all taxpayers, but there are two measures under consideration that
would change that—one that would change the Constitution to allow a progressive
income tax and another that would actually enact the graduated rates, from 3.75
percent to 9.75 percent, based on income.

Under
the progressive income tax proposal (HB 689/SB 518), the tax brackets would be
amended as follows:

  • For
    married couples or head of household:
    • 3.5 percent on income of $200,000 or less
    • 3.75 percent on income between $200,000 and $750,000
    • 8.75 percent on income between $750,000 and $1.5
      million
    • 9.57 percent on income higher than $1.5 million
  • For
    all other taxpayers:
    • 3.5 percent on income up to $100,000
    • 3.75 percent on income between $100,000 and $500,000
    • 8.75 percent on income between $500,000 and $1 million
    • 9.75 percent on income higher than $1 million

However,
NFIB’s Illinois State Director Kim Maisch points out that the tax rates
outlined in these bills are likely to change and would easily allow lawmakers
to significantly hike certain tax brackets, especially because even with the
new tax structure, the state would still need several billion more to pay off
bills and make a dent in pension liability.

“This
is a significant change in tax policy for our state, yet lawmakers have not
passed any economic reforms that small business owners desperately need,”
Maisch says. “Giving lawmakers more money without reforms is what got Illinois
into the current fiscal mess.” 

At
this writing, neither measure has been called for a full vote in either the
House or the Senate.

Related Content: Small Business News | Economy | Illinois | Taxes

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