Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker has repeatedly dodged questions about the basic details of his progressive income tax proposal, but he's not alone in his refusal to talk specifics.
When asked the progressive income tax plan, Republicans are quick to bash it while Democratic candidates in tight races have been as quiet as Pritzker.
Questions about changing the state's income tax structure from a flat tax to a progressive tax have come in contested races in House Districts 46, 55 and 56. State Rep. Deborah Conroy, D-Villa Park, faces Republican challenger Dr. Gordon "Jay" Kinzler, a transplant surgeon who lives in Glendale Heights, in the 46th Illinois House District. In the 55th Illinois House District, Republican Marilyn Smolenski is going up against Democratic State Rep. Marty Moylan. And State Rep. Michelle Mussman, D-Schaumburg, faces Republican Jillian Bernas in the 56th Illinois House District.
If the polls are any indication, Illinois Democrats could regain supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly and retake ownership of the governor’s mansion. Pritzker has said he will work to change Illinois’ flat income tax into a progressive one that taxes higher earners a higher percentage. House Speaker Michael Madigan also has pushed for the state to adopt a progressive income tax structure without getting into the details. Pritzker has said it’s the General Assembly’s job to dictate rates, often to criticism that voters would reject the idea if they knew the details of his plan.
One of the few Democrats willing to talk about the progressive income tax is Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines. He, too, declined to give any percentages, but said he favored the concept as long as it didn’t raise taxes on the middle class.
"If my information comes back that it’s going to cost the middle class more money, then I’m going to be against it," Moylan said. "If it’s going to benefit the middle class, then I’m going to be for it."
Moylan co-sponsored a resolution favoring the progressive tax in May.
Moylan's opponent, Marilyn Smolenski, said a progressive tax structure is "the politician’s solution to everything."
"I’ve been a single mom on a tight budget," she said. "I couldn’t imagine having to live under the uncertainty of a fluctuating tax. This is just the politician’s solution to everything, which is just to hike taxes."
Incumbents Michelle Mussman, D-Schaumburg, and Deb Conroy, D-Villa Park, declined to talk for this story.
Mussman’s Republican challenger, Jillian Rose Bernas, said a progressive income tax is often sold as a tax on millionaires, but then results in higher taxes for everyone.
"That’s really going to impact people and their livelihoods at all [income] ranges," she said.
Conroy’s challenger, Dr. Jay Kinzler, opposes a progressive tax because he says raising taxes on higher earners will send them to other states.
"Many of the people that would be affected by it have the means to move to another state," he said. "We already know that Illinois, of all the states in the union, has the biggest outmigration."
Illinois was one of eight states to shrink in total population in the 12 months ending in July 2017, the most recent census data available. West Virginia did lose a larger percentage of its population than Illinois.
Both Conroy and Mussman voted for Moylan’s resolution supporting a progressive tax.