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Graduated Income Tax Fails Despite Overwhelming Support From Chicagoans

The measure would have allowed for higher income tax levels for wealthier residents.

A voter speaks to a poll worker Tuesday at Haas Park Field House.
Mina Bloom/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The group pushing for an Illinois constitutional amendment to allow for a graduated income tax conceded the measure failed despite overwhelming support among Chicagoans.

The group Vote For Yes said in a statement: “We are undoubtedly disappointed in this result but are proud of the millions of Illinoisans who cast their ballots in support of tax fairness in this election.”

The amendment would have made it so the state government could create a graduated tax system. Officials said they would use it to tax the wealthier at higher rates than others, with most people actually paying less in taxes under the change.

Chicagoans showed huge support for the amendment, with about 70.8 percent voting in favor of it as of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, with 94.3 percent of precincts reporting, according to unofficial election results.

But statewide, opposition was strong, with 55 percent of voters marking “no,” with 98 percent of precincts reporting.

Mail-in votes had the potential to change the outcome because the amendment needs to meet one of two criteria to pass: Either 60 percent of people must have voted in support of it directly, or more than 50 percent of all people who voted must have voted in support of it.

The Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike Amendment said it believes the amendment will fail when all the votes are counted.

“When all the votes are counted, we believe there will be more ‘no’ votes than ‘yes’ votes, and that will be a win for small business owners, middle-class families, family farmers, retirees, and large employers,” coalition spokeswoman Lissa Druss said. “In this election, Illinois voters sent a resounding message that with an $8 billion deficit and two massive tax hikes in the last ten years, we cannot trust Springfield Politicians with another tax hike.”

The vote turned into a battle between billionaires, with Gov. JB Pritzker backing the amendment while Illinois’ richest man, Ken Griffin, spent millions opposing it. More than $120 million was raised by groups in the race.

Pritzker said the tax would drum up much-needed revenue for the state, which has been economically hamstrung by the coronavirus pandemic.

“As I’ve said many times before, the options for Illinois without the Fair Tax are not good,” Pritzker said during a Tuesday news conference.

If the tax doesn’t pass, the state will need to find a way to increase revenue significantly or will look at cuts of 15 percent to services like public safety and education, Pritzker said.

But critics said Illinois lawmakers could eventually use the amendment to increase taxes on everyone, not just the wealthy.

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