House liberals push back against estate tax repeal
Leading ‘Progressive Caucus’ member calls it the wrong way to go
Published by Capitol News Illinois on May 03, 2019
By Rebecca Anzel and Jerry Nowicki
SPRINGFIELD — Members of a liberal House caucus announced their opposition Friday to the Senate’s move to strike Illinois’ estate tax from statute, a measure unexpectedly included in a package of bills to change the state’s income tax structure.
Chicago Democratic Rep. Will Guzzardi, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, said the state is at a “critical moment.” The General Assembly is negotiating the terms under which to implement a graduated income tax system, and repealing a tax on the transfer of property, he said, “is a move in precisely the opposite direction.”
“Giving a $300 million tax break to the estates of the richest people in Illinois, that nobody as far as I can tell is even really asking for, seems to me like a step in the wrong direction,” Guzzardi said.
The measure, contained in Senate President John Cullerton’s (D-Chicago) Senate Bill 689, passed the Senate with 33 votes after unexpectedly being added to a package of bills which can only become law if the voters approve a graduated tax constitutional amendment in November 2020.
Six Democrats joined all but one Senate Republican in voting against the measure. State Sen. Dan McConchie, a Hawthorn Woods Republican, said the estate tax repeal is generally supported by Republicans, but his opposition was based on the fact that the repeal could be reversed at any time.
The estate tax currently only applies to estates worth more than $4 million, and it produces $305 million in revenue according to a 2020 estimate from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.
Guzzardi said that revenue would have to be made up elsewhere or the budget would have to be cut to account for the $305 million – even with the estimated $3.5 billion in revenue that would be gained from a proposed graduated tax structure.
“I think that we are pushing pretty hard on about every other source of revenue we can find,” he said.
He said cuts might have to come from “programs people care about,” such as higher education, health care, human services or others.
“I think it would harm our ability to balance our budget and it would undermine our efforts to make our tax policy more fair,” he added.
Guzzardi said the Progressive Caucus supports the graduated income tax proposal because Illinois does not have the financial resources to fund services its members see as ones a government should provide — quality public schools, affordable health care and access to social programs.
“Our tax system in this state is broken — we tax poor people and working-class people too much and very, very wealthy people way too little,” Guzzardi said. “We support the progressive income tax because it makes our tax system more fair and generates the revenue we need to pay for the services the government needs to perform.”
He said he is “optimistic” the constitutional amendment necessary to enact the new tax structure will receive enough votes to be presented to voters in 2020. The bill needs 71 votes in the House, which has 74 Democratic members.
But either way, removing current law that taxes the transfer of property is not something Guzzardi said he thinks will be successful in his chamber.
“To be clear, there aren’t enough votes in the House for a repeal of the estate tax and whatever happens with the fair tax, we don’t believe that that should be or will be included,” he said.
Democratic Reps. Carol Ammons (Urbana), Theresa Mah (Chicago), Celina Villanueva (Chicago), Delia Ramirez (Chicago), Kelly Cassidy (Chicago), Robyn Gabel (Evanston), Gregory Harris (Chicago), Joyce Mason (Gurnee), Anna Moeller (Elgin), Aaron Ortiz (Chicago), Lamont Robinson, Jr. (Chicago), Anne Stava-Murray (Naperville) and Maurice West (Rockford) joined in the caucus’s opposition to the estate tax.
Outlets published this piece
- Taylorville Breeze-Courier
- Rockford Register Star
- The Southern Illinoisan
- Pontiac Daily Leader
- DuQuoin Call
- Kewanee Star Courier
- Benton News