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(From left) Rep. Curtis J. Tarver II, D-Chicago, Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, Rep. Nicholas Smith, D-Chicago, and Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, confer during the Illinois House Executive Committee meeting Friday at the Bank of Springfield Center.

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SPRINGFIELD — The language of the graduated income tax ballot measure is finalized after the House joined the Senate in approving it Friday.

It will read: “The proposed amendment grants the State authority to impose higher income tax rates on higher income levels, which is how the federal government and a majority of other states do it. The amendment would remove the portion of the Revenue Article of the Illinois Constitution that is sometimes referred to as the 'flat tax,' that requires all taxes on income to be at the same rate. The amendment does not itself change tax rates. It gives the State the ability to impose higher tax rates on those with higher income levels and lower income tax rates on those with middle or lower income levels. You are asked to decide whether the proposed amendment should become a part of the Illinois Constitution.”

Voters will be asked to vote yes to approve it or no to oppose. A majority of those voting in the Nov. 3 general election or three-fifths of those voting on the question will be needed for the measure to become enshrined in Illinois’ Constitution.

If it passes, a rate structure already approved by the General Assembly will become law on Jan. 1, 2021, and would replace the current flat tax.

Passage of the measure is a top priority of Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has already pledged millions of his own fortune to push for its approval by voters. His budget team estimates the approved rates will bring in more than $1 billion in additional state revenue next fiscal year and more than $3 billion when it is implemented for a full fiscal year.

During debate in the House, Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, argued that Democrats, by noting the graduated structure is “how the federal government and a majority of other states do it,” are essentially including an argument for the measure in what should be an unbiased description.

Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, a Hillside Democrat, argued that the statement is factual.

“There’s selectively included facts in this explanation,” Demmer said, asking why the explanation doesn’t include information about Illinois’ overall tax burden. “When we talk about selectively including facts, we get into the territory of arguments.”

The text for a pamphlet that will, by law, be sent to “every mailing address in the state, addressed to the attention of the postal patron,” was also finalized. That pamphlet will contain the description of the measure, as well as arguments for and arguments against.

The arguments against were prepared by Republicans, and the arguments for by Democrats.

The arguments for the measure note the current tax system “unfairly benefits millionaires and billionaires;” voting yes on the amendment will enact a new tax structure where only those making more than $250,000 a year will see tax increases; and the amendment is “upgrading” Illinois’ tax system to one similar to the structure used by the federal government.

The arguments against say the measure “gives the Legislature power to increase taxes on any group of taxpayers with no limits and no accountability and without any requirement to use the additional revenue to fund essential needs.”

The other two points against are that “taxes and spending are out of control” in Illinois, and, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is “the worst possible time for a massive tax increase.”

Each chamber voted to approve the text, contained in Senate Joint Resolution 1, on partisan lines. 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

This article originally ran on thesouthern.com.

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