CAHOKIA — Democrats in the Illinois House want to raise taxes through a progressive income tax, but they'll have to do it without any Republican support, the GOP leader in the House said during a stop Monday in the metro-east.
Rep. Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said Democrats want to replace the current flat tax with a graduated tax, under which tax rates would increase with incomes. The goal of their plan is to increase the state's tax take by increasing the taxes on anyone making more than $18,000 annually, Durkin said.
The House has 71 Democrats and 47 Republicans. All of the Republicans, Durkin said, are united in opposition.
"The Democrats are going to have to do it by themselves," he said. "We will do everything in our power to make sure it never sees the light of day."
Steve Brown, a spokesman for Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, said afterward that if Republicans don't want to talk about coming up with tax revenue, they'll need to cut services and programs.
"Probably the more important question for them to answer going forward...is, how will they fashion a state spending plan without the revenues that start to decrease Jan. 1 of next year? What programs and services will they want to repeal?" Brown said. "If you're not going to pay for them, if you're not going to pay down the bills, what is the alternative?"
Attending a press conference with Durkin at St. Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia were local Republican state representatives Dwight Kay of Glen Carbon and Charlie Meier of Okawville, as well as David Leitch of Peoria.
Durkin said Democrats claimed a tax increase was necessary to pay bills and pay down the state's debt in 2010, when the legislature passed the temporary, 67 percent increase in the state income tax. The tax, equal to one week of a person's pay, begins decreasing next year.
"Not one penny of it went to paying down the debt or paying down the bills. They cannot be trusted," Durkin said, noting that the state's bill backlog now stands at $6.5 billion.
Kay said taxpayers and employers are leaving, giving Illinois the nation's second-highest rate of exits.
People have simply said they've had enough," Kay said. "And when they've had enough, they walk out of Illinois."
Leitch said he hears constantly about Caterpillar employees, executives and retirees who, with "the stroke of a pen," are setting up residences in Florida -- many of them in Naples, Fla. -- to avoid Illinois' income taxes.
"It's like Peoria South down there," Leitch said.
Durkin said Democrats are "very serious" about the progressive tax. During the last session of the legislature, a bill calling for a progressive tax had 39 House Democrats as co-sponsors, he said.
But he said if Democrats want to pass the bill, they'll have to "put your 71 votes up on the board."
Brown said there are some Democratic state representatives who are supporting a bill for a progressive tax, and Madigan is aware of it. But Brown didn't know how much support the measure has.
"It would have to be a bipartisan majority to advance that idea," Brown said.
Durkin made similar stops Monday in Rockford, Peoria and Decatur.
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