With Gov. J.B. Pritzker continuing to press for a graduated state income tax, a group of Illinois Senate Republicans want to add a constitutional amendment that would make it very difficult to raise taxes of any kind.
The Republicans filed the proposed amendment Tuesday. It would require the House and Senate to approve any kind of tax increase by a two-thirds vote.
That is a higher than the three-fifths standard that lawmakers need to override a veto by the governor or even to put the proposed amendment on the ballot.
"There's been a number of taxes that have been proposed this year during the legislative session to far," said Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods. "One of the concerns we have is there simply is not significant protections to ensure that tax rates or tax structures in the future are not going to be jacked up."
It will take three-fifths votes of the House and Senate to get the graduated income tax on the 2020 ballot. Voters must also approve the amendment by a wide margin for it to be adopted.
But opponents have been sounding the alarm that once a graduated system is in place, it will be easier for lawmakers to raise income taxes on certain income levels, particularly upper income levels. However, opponents of the graduated tax have also said rates for middle income taxpayers will go up once the plan is in place.
The Pritzker administration has released numbers showing 97 percent of Illinois taxpayers will not see an increase under the system. The largest amount of new revenue will come from people earning $1 million or more.
McConchie said 15 states have a requirement of a super majority to pass a tax hike, including California and Wisconsin.
"California has had this for a number of years," McConchie said. "This has not prevented them from raising taxes."
McConchie said having the amendment in the state constitution would force lawmakers to consider cuts before raising taxes.
Democrats hold better than two-thirds majorities in the California House and Senate.
Democrats hold three-fifths majorities in the Illinois House and Senate. In the House, Democrats hold a 74-44 edge, and they hold a 40-19 lead in the Senate. If the amendment were adopted, tax increases would need 39 votes in the Senate and 79 in the House to pass.
The head of Think Big Illinois, a dark money group supporting the graduated tax, said the Republicans "are using every trick in the book to protect the wealthy donors they rely on to fund their campaigns."
"Republicans in Springfield are so desperate to keep our current unfair tax system that they are resorting to political stunts in an attempt to ensure a system that disproportionately places the burden on the middle and lower class stays in place," Quentin Fulks said in a statement.