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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Southern Illinois voters oppose putting Pritzker's progressive income tax amendment on the ballot

Their View

By Austin Berg, Illinois Policy Institute | May 27, 2019


Former state Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, was the first Democrat in the Illinois House of Representatives to declare his opposition to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s progressive income tax constitutional amendment earlier this year. He represented the 116th House District, in the southwest corner of the state.

New polling shows Costello’s successor – who assumed office in May after Pritzker appointed Costello to a position with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources – would be wise to follow in his footsteps.

In order for Pritzker to pass his proposed $3.4 billion progressive income tax hike, he first needs to scrap the Illinois Constitution’s flat income tax protection. Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 1 would do this. And it currently awaits a vote of the full Illinois House. If 71 House members vote “yes” on the amendment, the measure will appear as a referendum question on the statewide general election ballot in November 2020. And if voters approve it, Illinois lawmakers could then pass graduated, or “progressive,” tax rates that rise with income.

Recent polling data reveal newly appointed state Rep. Nathan Reitz, D-Steeleville – who now represents House District 116 – could face significant backlash at the ballot box for voting “yes” on SJRCA 1, regardless of his vote on any income tax rates lawmakers eventually set. This echoes polling from March that showed strong opposition to Pritzker’s progressive income tax in nearby House districts 111 and 112, which are held by state Reps. Monica Bristow, D-Alton, and Katie Stuart, D-Collinsville.

Polling results

The following results are from live polling of 300 likely voters in House District 116 from May 19-20, conducted by Fabrizio, Lee & Associates on behalf of Illinois Policy. (summary memo, topline results, crosstabs).

Pritzker is very unpopular

Only 22% of likely voters have a favorable opinion of the governor, while 41% have an unfavorable opinion of him. Republicans strongly dislike him (-53 net favorable), while Democrats view him favorably (+48). Independents have a more than 3-to-1 unfavorable view of Pritzker.

Two-thirds of likely voters are aware of Pritzker’s progressive income tax proposal

A strong majority of likely voters have recently seen, read or heard about Pritzker’s proposal to change to the state’s income tax system from flat to progressive. Republicans (72%) and independents (71%) are more likely to be aware of the proposal than their Democratic counterparts (57%).

Likely voters overwhelmingly oppose putting a progressive income tax amendment on the ballot

Just 22% of likely voters favor Pritzker’s proposal to put a progressive income tax constitutional amendment on the ballot while 57% oppose it, including 44% who “strongly oppose” the measure.

Republicans oppose the proposal by a 62-point margin while independents oppose it by a 46-point margin. Meanwhile, only 45% of Democrats support the proposal while 24% oppose it.

When given detailed information on how the amendment will work, opposition remains strong

Poll respondents received the following question and explanation of the constitutional amendment process:

“As you may know, the Illinois Constitution currently requires a flat state income tax, where all levels of income are taxed at the same rate. This is different from a progressive income tax, where tax rates rise with income. In order to change to a progressive tax system, Illinois state lawmakers must vote YES on Governor Pritzker’s constitutional amendment. The constitutional amendment will then go to Illinois voters. If 60% of Illinois voters approve, then state lawmakers would be allowed to pass new, progressive income tax rates. Again, do you favor or oppose Governor Pritzker’s proposal to put a progressive income tax constitutional amendment on the ballot?”

After this detailed explanation, 58% of respondents opposed putting the progressive income tax amendment on the ballot while 33% were in favor.

A state representative in House District 116 who voted for the progressive income tax amendment would face serious backlash

By a more than 2-to-1 margin (41% less likely versus 18% more likely), voters would be less likely to vote for a state representative who voted in favor of the governor’s proposed constitutional amendment. The negative impact would be strongest among Republicans (-47), but even independents would be less likely by a wide 26-point margin.

Voters don’t believe claims that a progressive income tax will result in their tax bill going down

Nearly half (49%) of poll respondents think state lawmakers would raise their income tax bill if the progressive tax amendment passes at the ballot box, while only 15% thinks their income tax bill would go down. Pritzker’s claim that only 3% of Illinoisans would see a tax hike under his plan while the rest of the state would see income tax relief or no change in their bill has clearly not penetrated.

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Organizations in this Story

Illinois Policy InstituteIllinois Department of Natural Resources