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Why Pritzker's graduated income tax now looks a lot more likely Late-breaking returns show Madigan’s Democrats will have a supermajority, allowing them—in theory—to act on a graduated tax without any Republican support.

Crain's Chicago Business

Thursday, November 8, 2018  |  Column  |  Greg Hinz

Governor (44) , Taxes, Graduated/Progressive

The last piece needed for total Democratic control of all the levers of power in Springfield fell into place today when late election returns showed that the party will have a supermajority in the Illinois House—potentially clearing the way to adopt the graduated income tax pushed by Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker.

Final or near final returns showed that House Speaker Mike Madigan picked up seven seats, mostly in the Chicago suburbs, while losing just one, in far southern Illinois. That would give the Dems a net pickup of six, moving them to 73 total House members.

That’s significant because a supermajority of 71 votes is needed to pass and submit to voters a constitutional amendment authorizing the graduated income tax, a top Pritzker priority. Put a different way, though Madigan normally is very reluctant to move on revenue-raising bills without GOP buy-in, there are enough House Democrats to move ahead anyway even if the Republicans balk.

There’s also the possibility the Democrats could add one vote to that total, with two candidates vying for what had been a Republican-held seat in the Lake Barrington area separated by one vote.

The win by Madigan’s Democrats came despite years of all-out attacks on the speaker by outgoing Gov. Bruce Rauner and other Republicans as a “corrupt” official more interested in plumping his business as a property tax appeals lawyer than in serving the public.

The election outcome “is a repudiation of this idea that Madigan is the Great Satan and the cause of all evils,” said Madigan spokesman Steve Brown, taking a bit of a victory lap. "We’ve had a pretty good rejection of Rauner by voters."

Madigan, of course, still has to get re-elected as speaker, and there is some dissent in his caucus. But like it or not, I wouldn’t vote against him.

House GOP leader Jim Durkin was unavailable for comment, but the vote totals in the districts Madigan picked up—the 45th, 48th, 49th, 53rd, 61st, 76th and 81st Districts—all seem solid, as reported by Crain’s contributor Rich Miller at Capitol Fax.

Update—The speaker himself is out with an unusually personal statement, focusing on how the GOP strategy of going after him didn’t work.

“Last night’s election results definitively proved that the Rauner Republican playbook of trying to make the entire 2018 election a referendum on Speaker Madigan, to district from Republicans’ record, is a failure,” it begins.

Written on the letterhead of the Illinois Democratic Party, the memo goes on at length about how “dozens” of GOP candidates lambasted the chairman, “intent on tearing one man down . . . But nearly every one lost.” The strategy failed, it adds, “because Mike Madigan and the Illinois Democratic Party are champions of smart economic and social policies that better the lives of Illinoisans.”

My, my. Sounds like all those attacks hit a nerve.

Democrats already have a supermajority in the Senate, and only added to it on Tuesday, picking up one and probably a second seat, both in the western suburbs.