SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Gov. J.B. Pritzker urged Illinois legislators Tuesday to "let the people vote" on his constitutional amendment that would dump the state's flat-rate income tax structure for one that takes a bigger bite from the wealthy .
Surrounded by fellow Democrats who control both houses of the General Assembly, Pritzker told reporters in his state Capitol office that lawmakers are ready to debate a proposed constitutional amendment to implement a graduated income tax. A Senate plan has been filed; the House will soon follow with its version.
The billionaire contends his proposal would mean the same tax bill or a tax cut for 97 percent of Illinoisans; higher taxes only on those making more than $250,000; and $3.4 billion in additional annual revenue for the deficit-riddled state. It would replace the state's current 4.95 percent flat tax rate.
But it's unclear if Pritzker enjoys support from three-fifths majorities in both House and Senate, which must approve it before the question is put to voters in November 2020 at the earliest.
"Let the people vote," Pritzker said.
"For those who will oppose a fair tax by waging a misinformation campaign, it is transparent that you are defending an unfair status quo that benefits the wealthiest Illinoisans instead of offering your own ideas for how to fix our state's problems," he said.
Illinois has billions of dollars of debt in underfunded pensions, overdue bills to vendors and contractors, and insufficient revenue to cover existing expenses, prompting a predicted $3.2 billion shortfall at the end of the next budget year in June 2020.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, a Western Springs Republican, pounced on the proposal.
"We're trying to change the status quo," Durkin said. "The 'unfair status quo' is what has happened to Illinois taxpayers by the same Democrats who have passed massive tax increases within the last 10 years based on the premise that we would pay our bills and get Illinois fixed. It never happened."
Durkin said a constitutional amendment should enshrine the taxation rates so that Democrats can't easily increase them in the future.
In addition to approving the constitutional amendment, Pritzker said he wants lawmakers to set final tax rates before their scheduled May 31 adjournment. That would give voters time to determine how a tax change would affect them before heading to the voting booth in 18 months.
The legislation is SJRCA1.
Follow Political Writer John O'Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor .