Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has revived his millionaire tax idea and is rallying support from teachers unions, who want the extra money for schools. So he should call the bill rather than rattle his saber. But he couldn’t muster enough votes in the House last year to get a necessary constitutional amendment on the ballot, so why would he think it would be different now?
Yes, Illinois has less revenue now than it did last year because a temporary income tax increase expired. But lawmakers knew that was scheduled to happen. Yes, 64 percent of voters supported a nonbinding referendum on the millionaire tax. But if you ask people whether the state should increase taxes on millionaires – in other words, on someone else – of course most people are going to say “yes.” What’s surprising is that the percentage of support wasn’t higher.
The election of Republican Bruce Rauner, who thinks Illinois should reform the way it does business before asking for any more taxes, likely strengthens the opposition. Republicans in the House presumably will still oppose the millionaire tax. And at least one key Democrat who helped block the bill last year, Jack Franks, reportedly is still against it.
Madigan may be trying to unnerve Rauner with this plan, but Madigan is the one who will look like an ineffective leader if it fails. Madigan should be offering bold, innovative ideas to address the state’s fiscal problems as Rauner has. This feels like a deflection.