Update from the Capitol 4/29/2016



Key supporter backs away from mileage tax proposal

The proposed mileage tax, floated a couple of weeks ago by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), to charge Illinois motor vehicle owners a mileage-based tax for use of Illinois roads, appears to be going nowhere.  The Senate Democratic leader stated that he did not plan to move forward with the proposal this spring.  Cullerton described his proposal as a trial balloon intended to start discussions on funding for road construction and maintenance.

Advocates of tax increases assert that existing Illinois motor fuel taxes do not raise enough money to enable the timely rebuilding and reconstruction of roads and bridges in the state.  The Cullerton proposal would have strongly encouraged Illinois drivers to accept the placement of an electronic mileage counter or transponder on their vehicles, which could be used by authorities to count miles driven.  Under one tax contract that drivers would have been encouraged to choose, the mileage counter/transponder would have told authorities where the motor vehicle was at all times.  The state’s 19-cents-per-gallon tax rate on motor fuel was last increased 25 years ago, in 1991.  Other proposals still on the table call for increasing this conventional tax by levels up to 30 additional cents per gallon in Illinois.

Constitutional amendment would abolish Lieutenant Governor’s office

Illinois has had an office of the Lieutenant Governor since being admitted to statehood in 1818.  For almost 200 years, most Illinois lieutenant governors have served quiet terms without succeeding to the office of Governor or performing other significant tasks.  Seven U.S. states do not have a Lieutenant Governor.  

HJRCA 5, a proposed Constitutional amendment sponsored by Rep. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills), authorizes the people of Illinois to vote in November on abolishing the office of the Lieutenant Governor.  If the amendment is approved, the elected Attorney General (who is the person next in line under existing law) would become the successor to the Governor.  The measure was approved by the House on April 22.  The bipartisan 95-10 vote to approve HJRCA 5 sent the measure to the Senate for further consideration and debate.

House Democrats call for amendment to Constitution, enactment of graduated income tax

The Democrats’ tax hike proposal, which would require amending the state Constitution, calls for imposing a new individual income tax rate of up to 9.75% on upper income Illinoisans.  The individual income tax has always been imposed at a flat rate since it was enacted in 1969.  The current individual income tax rate, since January 1, 2015, has been 3.75%.

Advocates for the graduated income tax proposal claim that the tax would raise an additional $1.9 billion in new state revenue.  The proposal, floated by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), was introduced in the House as House Bill 689.  The state Constitution requires that individual income taxes must be imposed at a “non-graduated rate,” and the Lang proposal would require that an amendment be approved by voters to change or repeal this mandate.

HJRCA 59, a newly-filed constitutional amendment, was approved by the Executive Committee on a partisan roll call on April 21.  House Republicans voted against the proposed amendment.  If adopted by both houses of the General Assembly, the amendment would submit to the voters the question of repealing the current flat tax mandate.

House passes constitutional amendment to protect road funds

The Illinois House voted last Friday to support another proposed Constitutional Amendment; one that seeks to protect a funding mechanism for Illinois’ roads, highways, and transportation systems. HJRCA 36 passed the House overwhelmingly and now moves to the Senate for consideration.

House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 36 seeks to amend the Illinois Constitution to say that tax dollars collected via the motor fuel tax, vehicle registration fees, and license taxes will be used exclusively for transportation-related purposes, instead of being siphoned away for other spending.

Like the amendment to abolish the Lieutenant Governor’s office, this proposal is now in the hands of the Senate.

House back in action next week

The House was in recess this week, but will be back in action May 3-5. More than 300 bills have come over from the Senate so far this year, and we will begin considering them in the House this coming week. The Senate will also be back in Springfield starting on Tuesday. Any proposed Constitutional amendments will have to be passed by both houses by Friday in order to appear on the November ballot for ratification.

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