Since 1970, the Illinois Constitution has required the state personal income tax to be a flat rate. The Illinois State Legislature, with the support of Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), passed legislation on May 27, 2019, to ask voters to repeal the requirement and instead allow for a graduated income tax by constitutional amendment.
Voters will decide the ballot measure on November 3, 2020. In Illinois, a ballot measure amending the state constitution requires either a 60 percent vote of those voting on the ballot measure or a simple majority vote of those voting in the election.
Gov. Pritzker and Democrats have named the proposal the Fair Tax, while Ideas Illinois, an organization opposed to the ballot measure, has called the proposal the Unfair Jobs Tax.
The ballot measure required 60 percent supermajorities in the state’s legislative chambers. Democrats control 68 percent (40 of 59) Senate seats and 63 percent (74 of 118) House seats, and were able to pass the constitutional amendment without Republican support. From 2016 to 2018, Democrats held majorities in the House and Senate but not enough seats to pass a constitutional amendment along partisan lines.
The ballot measure itself would not enact a graduated income tax, just allow for one. For income earned in 2018, the personal income tax in Illinois was a flat rate of 4.95 percent. The Illinois State Senate passed Senate Bill 687 (SB 687) on May 1, 2019, which would go into effect only if voters approve the constitutional amendment in 2020. SB 687 would change the state’s income tax from a flat rate to six graduated rates—ranging from 4.75 to 7.99 percent—beginning on January 1, 2021. The state House had not passed SB 687 as of May 27, 2019.
Ballotpedia has not identified political action committees (PACs) supporting or opposing the ballot measure; however, at least two 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations were airing advertisements regarding the ballot measure. Think Big Illinois supported the legislation to place the constitutional amendment on the ballot. Quentin Fulks, a former campaign staffer for Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s (D) 2018 gubernatorial campaign is heading Think Big Illinois. Gov. Pritzker has donated to the organization but had no other involvement, according to Think Big Illinois spokesperson Lara Sisselman. Ideas Illinois opposed the legislation for the constitutional amendment. The Coalition for Jobs, Growth and Prosperity, which formed in 2004, organized Ideas Illinois. Greg Baise, former president of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, is leading the group.
House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22) said, “Middle-class families bear too much of the burden under the current tax system, and a Fair Tax will enable us to make the wealthy pay their fair share to balance the budget and invest in critical resources like education and health care — all while providing relief for 97% of taxpayers.” House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-82) said his party “will continue to stand united against the majority part’s insatiable desire for higher taxes that has caused businesses and families to flee the state in droves.”
The ballot measure to allow for a graduated income tax will be the 23rd constitutional amendment that voters in Illinois have decided since adopting their current constitution in 1970. Fourteen of the 22 constitutional amendments were approved at the ballot box, while eight of them were rejected.