SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Two days after Illinois Republicans chose a multimillionaire as their candidate for governor, the powerful Chicago Democrat who controls the Illinois House proposed a tax on millionaires Thursday to fund the state's financially strapped education system.
House Speaker Michael Madigan introduced a constitutional amendment to tack a 3 percent surcharge onto incomes over $1 million, which he said would raise $1 billion a year for elementary and secondary education.
Madigan announced the idea in a state Capitol news conference just as one of the nation's most competitive governor races is heating up between Republican Bruce Rauner, a wealthy private-equity investor, and Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who espouse starkly contrasting visions of how to fix the lagging economy of the Democratic stronghold.
The proposal by the speaker, who doubles as state Democratic Party chairman and has controlled the House for nearly all of the last 30 years, intensifies an ongoing debate over tax policy in Illinois less than a week before Quinn delivers a budget address. The governor is expected to use the speech to lay out how he plans to deal with a temporary income-tax increase that's set to expire halfway through the year, leaving a budget hole as big as $3 billion.
"What we're doing here is calling upon people in Illinois that are well-equipped to provide support for education, which is available to everybody in the state," Madigan said.
Rauner campaign spokesman Chip Englander said Rauner is happy to pay more for schools and has given millions of dollars to education over the years, but he won't support Madigan's proposal.
"The last time they raised taxes, they hit every Illinoisan with a 67 percent increase, and they still turned around and cut funding for education," Englander said in a statement. The statement later said, "We need to take a look at our entire tax system to make Illinois more competitive and lower the tax burden on the people of Illinois."