A lobbyist for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce told a local business group Friday that the recent income tax increase would likely be the top issue in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign.
“We believe the income tax will be the dominant issue this year and next,” said Todd Maisch, the state chamber’s executive vice president and chief lobbyist.
Speaking at the monthly First Friday luncheon sponsored by the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce, Maisch said the 2014 gubernatorial campaign “will be a referendum on the tax increase.”
At the behest of Gov. Pat Quinn, the General Assembly voted to raise the state income tax rate from 3 to 5 percent in 2011 over a four-year period. At least one lawmaker, Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, has called for making that increase permanent as a way to solve the state’s pension funding problem.
Maisch said the tax debate could take one of two forms. He said lawmakers could push for a progressive income tax similar in form to the federal income tax, in which those with higher incomes theoretically pay a higher tax rate.
Or, he said, legislators could consider a tax increase as part of a move to expand the state’s tax base. He said the state chamber will be ready to oppose that idea.
“We will be prepared to have that discussion,” he said.
Maisch said neither option is overly palatable to the business community. He took a particularly dim view of any proposal to initiate a progressive income tax.
“We would be very vocal about what would be a small business tax increase,” he said.
The Illinois Constitution, which mandates the state income tax be flat, would have to be amended to create a progressive income tax.
Maisch said there are a number of people poised to unseat Quinn next year, including state Sen. Bill Brady, who almost beat the governor in 2010. Other potential GOP candidates include state Sen. Kirk Dillard, State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Chicago businessman Bruce Rauner.