Mike Frerichs

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Mike Frerichs

Graduated income tax

In 2007 State Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, wanted Illinois to switch to a graduated income tax, meaning high earners owe a larger percentage than those with lower incomes.

"We think this might be the way to truly reform education funding in this state and also provide property tax relief," Frer-ichs said.

It won't be an easy task. The Illinois Constitution specifies that "a tax on or measured by income shall be at a nongraduated rate." Frerichs and state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, are forming a committee to work on changing that provision of the constitution.

"This isn't going to happen with just me and Sen. Raoul; we are looking to build a much larger coalition," Frerichs said.

Getting a constitutional amendment on the ballot requires a three-fifths majority vote in both the House and the Senate or a petition with nearly 280,000 signatures – enough to equal at least 8 percent of the total votes cast in the last election for governor. Once it gets on the ballot, it needs approval from 60 percent of those voting on the question or a majority of the people who voted in that election.

Ralph Martire, executive director for the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, said he strongly supported the idea of graduated income tax.

"It's the appropriate way to impose an income tax if you want to have a system that taxes fairly and responsibly in a capitalist economy," Martire said. "We have a flat tax, which means we leave too much of the economic growth out of our tax structure and we place the greatest burden on low- and middle-income taxpayers."[1]