State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) says that with a May 1 deadline looming to put a graduated income tax referendum on the fall election ballot, prospects for that reform look doubtful.

At a town hall meeting at the Evanston Public Library Monday night, Biss said that he is “a very strong supporter” of amending the state constitution to permit the graduated tax.

But the amendment referendum would require super-majorities in both houses of the legislature to place on the ballot, and even if it wins those, “it will be difficult to get it to pass in a referendum.”

Biss says that if the legislature does nothing, and the temporary state income tax rate of 5 percent is allowed to drop back to 3.75 percent next January, it would require $2 billion in cuts to state programs like education, human services and public safety to balance the budget for the new fiscal year that starts in July.

Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed that the legislature make the 5 percent tax rate permanent, while his Republican challenger, Bruce Rauner, favors letting the temporary tax hikes expire.

That, in effect, turns the governor’s race into a referendum on tax policy, Biss said. And it makes it difficult for the legislature to come up with a spending plan for the coming year as it’s required to do by the end of May.

Some of the roughly 40 people who turned out for the town hall event.

But Biss said that while the state continues to face serious financial issues, “it’s not an intractible mountain of sad.”

He said the state has managed to reduce its backlog of unpaid bills and that state revenues are up.

‘We’re on a path,” Biss said, referring to Medicaid reforms two years ago and pension reforms last year, “It’s not been a fun path. But all these giant holes can be dug out of.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Look at the real things that need to be cut

    He said "would require $2 billion in cuts to state programs like education, human services and public safety…"


    Politicians always say these will be the things that have to be cut.  How about the size and pay of Springfield and other government—both senator and reps. and staff.  How about patronage hiring, hiring of relatives at inflated salaries for positions that don't need filling.  How about all the travel budgets that are really just to get votes.  How about reasonable salary and pension reforrm including 'reasonable' salaries out of current budgets instead of promising big pensions to get union peace.  The list could go on and on. 

    Stop threats to programs you know can't and won't be cut and get to work on really looking at the budget expenses not iincreasing revenue so Springfield [Chicago, Evanston] can go on spending like a drunken sailor [apologies to sailors for being linked to politicians and their spending].

    Evanston could cut the Council in half and still have each alderman representing fewer residents than even Chicago—and we know how bad Chicago politics is.

  2. I understand the reasoning

    I understand the reasoning behind Senator Biss' stance on a graduated tax platform, every indication is that the temporary income tax hike is going to be made perminant.  Furthermore, since when did we opt to punish success in our country? Not only is a graduated tax unfair to the citizens of Illinois, it would be detrimental to our business community at large. A flat tax rate is one of the few attractive pieces of legislation Illinois has left for businesses small and large. 

  3. Biss

    Why am I not surprised! Nothing can be accomplished by that bunch of lemmings in Springfield! Especially in an election year. They're more concerned with saving their jobs tnan saving Illinois. Please send your thank you cards to Madigan & Cullerton!

  4. With a graduated tax you get “loopholes”
    The Federal Government has a graduated tax. Now take a look at the Internal Revenue Code and its Regulations. And this is what we want for Illinois? The more you try to take from only a specified group, the more that group will “influence” the state lawmakers (I’m not sure how they do it at the Federal level, but they do seem to do it very well). Since one of the biggest problems facing the state is the pension crisis, let our govenor approach the Social Security Administration and see if we could put all current employees under Social Security by giving the SSA all the pension money we still have as a down payment for their coverage. As far as I know, the IRS does not recognize “pension holidays” when it comes time to collect.

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