Steps toward stability: Illinois Senate leads way on Fair Tax overhaul

jjc 050119SPRINGFIELD — On Wednesday, the Illinois Senate approved a series of proposals designed to overhaul an outdated tax system and bring newfound stability to the state’s economy.

Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton issued the following statement:

“Year after year our state has gone from one crisis to the next. At the heart of it all is a nearly 50-year-old provision in our constitution that simply no longer reflects our modern economy. Today, we took an overdue first step toward giving voters the power to change it.”


“We can’t grow as a state until we own up to our obligations, pay our debts and invest in the services and institutions that have long made Illinois a national leader. The Fair Tax plan we approved today would finally allow Illinois to do all of those things. I hope it is swiftly approved by the Illinois House so we can get it before voters next year.”

The Senate approved four separate proposals on Wednesday.

SJRCA 1 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would eliminate the flat tax mandate in the Illinois Constitution. If the House approves it, that amendment would then go to voters for approval next year.

tax rate chart 050119SB 687 is a corresponding “Fair Tax” proposal that contains tax brackets and rates. The rates apply to taxable income, which is the income declared after all deductions and credits are claimed. As approved by the Senate, 97 percent of Illinois taxpayers would see no change, or possibly a tax cut.

SB 689 abolishes the so-called “death tax” on estate inheritance. This has increasingly been an issue in agriculture communities across Illinois.

SB 690 stops local school boards from increasing property tax rates so long as the state meets its obligations to increase funding for public education and fully reimburses schools for transportation, special education and other required services and programs.

All four proposals now advance to the Illinois House.

Other members of the Senate Democratic Caucus reacted to Wednesday's actions on the tax overhaul:

Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood): “Our working and middle class families have been forced to cover the cost for running our state under a tax structure that does not require wealthy people to contribute their fair share, and we are working to give voters a chance to change that. We desperately need to repair our infrastructure, fund our schools and provide services that lift our communities up. That cannot be done under our current tax structure, and I hope to see the potential we voted for today come to fruition.”

Assistant Majority Leader Tony Munoz (D-Chicago): “The people in my district want to see better schools, improved roads and economic development and for years they have invested more of their hard-earned money on those services than the millionaires and billionaires living just down the street. This is a step to ending that inequity, and I’m looking forward to seeing the support from voters on this important change.”

Assistant Majority Leader Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago): “It makes no sense that someone working multiple jobs just to get by should pay the same tax rate as a millionaire or a billionaire. We need to update our tax structure to protect middle and working class families.”

State Senator Laura Fine (D-Glenview): “I’m proud to have supported this proposal, which puts us one step closer to implementing a Fair Tax in Illinois. This new tax structure is sound fiscal policy that will give us the freedom to invest in key areas across the state.”

State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago): “I’m happy to support a measure that will bring tax relief to 97 percent of Illinois taxpayers. My Senate colleagues and I followed through on a mandate from the voters, who spoke loudly in November of 2018 and told us they wanted a state government that would do its part to implement a fair tax.”

State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign): “Under Illinois’ current flat tax, a teacher from Champaign, or a child care worker from Danville, carries the same burden as an investment banker in Chicago. This system has allowed the state’s wealthy to escape their responsibility to pay a fair share.”

State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago): “Reforming our tax code so that the wealthy pay their fair share while easing the burden on 97 percent of all Illinoisans is the right thing to do. It will not only allow us to invest in our schools and social services and boost our local economies throughout the state, but it will help put Illinois on a responsible path to fiscal stability.”

State Senator Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago): “It’s absurd that families who are struggling to make ends meet are paying the same income tax rate as the wealthiest residents of our state. It’s long past time to implement a fair and equitable tax system that will provide relief to middle and working class taxpayers who have been carrying an undue financial burden in this state.”

State Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago): “We’ve been careening from one financial crisis to another for far too long and this proposal will lessen the burden on lower and middle income taxpayers without sacrificing the availability of services on which Illinois residents rely.”

State Senator Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines): “With the current flat tax, a cashier in Elk Grove Village pays the exact same rate as a hedge fund manager in Chicago. With a fair tax, we can not only bring relief to working families, but relief to our state’s financial crisis.”

State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago): “Rates of income inequality are the highest they have been since 1928, the year preceding the Great Depression. While the gap between the wealthiest Illinoisans and working and middle-class families continues to grow, the tax rate for everyone stays the same. Updating our tax structure will give us the flexibility to enact a system that is fair for everyone.”

State Senator Ann Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights): “Ninety-seven percent of taxpayers stand to benefit from scrapping Illinois’ flat tax and moving to a system that ties income taxes to how much people earn,” Gillespie said. “We’re going to give them that choice at the ballot box.”

State Senator Christopher Belt (D-Cahokia): “We are one of the few states in the country to still have a flat tax. We’re losing residents every year and they’re going to neighboring states that have a fair tax system,” Belt said. “If we want to keep our residents in Illinois, we must adopt a fair tax or they are going to move to Minnesota, which is a leader in job creation because they have fair tax. It’s time for the wealthy in Illinois start paying their fair share and taxes be cut for working families.”

State Senator Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago): "Right now, our government taxes the income of all Illinoisans at the same level, whether you're making $40,000 a year or $40 million a year. We are one of only nine states that still stands by this unfair and fiscally irresponsible policy. This vote is the first step toward taxing residents more fairly and righting our fiscal ship."

State Senator Elgie R. Sims (D-Chicago): “A cashier at a corner store on Cottage Grove and a futures trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange pay the same percentage on their incomes. We have to change that. It has long been time for millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.”

State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria): “A minimum wage worker in the Peoria area shouldn’t pay the same tax rate as a millionaire,” Koehler said. “By adopting this amendment, we can make the needed changes to keep our budget balanced and invest in needed improvements to our infrastructure, schools and colleges.Under the proposed rates of Senate Bill 687, 99.2% of my district will get a tax break or pay the same."

Sen. President Cullerton

6th Senate District
President of the Senate

Years served: 1979 - 1991 (House); 1991 - 2020 (Senate)

Committee assignments: Committee of the Whole; Executive.

Biography: Attorney; born Oct. 28, 1948, in Chicago; B.A., political science, Loyola University; J.D., Loyola University Law School; served in Illinois National Guard, 1970-76; former Assistant Public Defender and instructor at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy; married (wife, Pamela), has five children.

Associated Representatives:
Sara Feigenholtz
Ann M. Williams