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Tuesday, Jun 17, 2014

* Speaker Madigan’s non-binding referendum on whether income over a million dollars a year should be hit with an income tax surcharge has a grammar problem

(D)espite a series of debates on the idea, no one apparently caught the improper use of the word “their” in the text of the proposed ballot question.

The measure asks, “Should the Illinois Constitution be amended to require that each school district receive additional revenue, based on their number of students, from an additional 3% tax on income greater than one million dollars?”

Proper grammar calls for the word “its” instead of “their” because “each school district” is singular.

A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who sponsored the proposal, said he was unaware of any effort underway to fix the flaw before it goes on the ballot.


My problem with the question, though, is that it doesn’t specify what sort of income should be taxed. Gross? Adjusted gross? Net? Personal? Corporate?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - WhoKnew - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 9:53 am:

    All of the above!

    Problem solved!!!

  2. - Fan - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 9:54 am:

    Considering it is class warfare kindling, and the targeted voters, does the wording really matter?

  3. - wondering downstate - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 9:56 am:

    Rich, minor details do not mean anything in Illinois. It is advisory question with no enforcement. It just takes up ballot space.

  4. - OneMan - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 9:57 am:

    Well the original wording of

    “Hey should we raise taxes on someone else” would not have passed constitutional muster…

  5. - Jay Dee - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 10:01 am:

    It could be the intent not to be accurate of type of income taxed. By being more specific, it would confine legislators to that type of taxation in order to still be able to use the question as political cover.

  6. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 10:04 am:

    I find it hard to believe stuff like this drives turnout. I guess it’s a matter of covering all bases.

  7. - rolling meadows - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 10:09 am:

    sad to have to do this type of thing

  8. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 10:09 am:

    They could just type “prairie chicken” 20 times without any verb and it mean the same thing.

  9. - Amalia - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 10:16 am:

    get to the important thing, who was responsible for writing the language, and where are they/aren’t they now?

  10. - Blah - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 10:20 am:

    The constitution doesn’t specify the type of income tax either. Illinois conforms with the federal method of taxation, which is based on net income. You don’t have to specify what you’re referring to when talking about an income tax.

  11. - dave - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 10:20 am:

    **I find it hard to believe stuff like this drives turnout. I guess it’s a matter of covering all bases.**

    It doesn’t drive turnout on its own. It only drives turnout if there is a real field operation (with money behind it) to do so. There are a lot of people that will likely be more motivated to vote to raise the min wage, or to tax millionaires, than they will be to show up to vote for Pat Quinn. But it will take a coordinated effort to move the necessary message to get those folks to the polls.

  12. - Sarge - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 10:22 am:

    Ninety percent of the general public are going to read that and think the tax will be on the school districts’ income. Very awkwardly worded.

  13. - walker - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 10:24 am:

    It provides a subtle message in the polling place, right on the ballot itself.

    Puts any discomfort with Rauner’s wealth top-of-mind while voting.

    This race could swing on a few thousand.

  14. - OneMan - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 10:29 am:

    Well the other thing is, aren’t these things normally last on the ballot?

  15. - Steve - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 10:40 am:

    Rich’s point is well taken. This isn’t a small issue. For you sports fans out there: this could make Chicago sports teams less competitive in signing talent depending on what is considered income.

  16. - Grammerpolize - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 10:43 am:

    The singular form of “they” or “them” or “their” is typical in sentences because the English language has no singular personal non-gender specific pronoun. The use of the word as a singular hasn’t fully been accepted, but it is rather common place in the American English language. Using it in this complex sentence makes some sense because it is used to force the reader to tie together school districts and number of students. It may not be the best grammatical usage, but it does make sense in this context.

  17. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 10:59 am:

    Details always matter.

    Except when they don’t matter at all, as is apparently the case here.

    It’s enough to drive one mad if you think about it too much.

  18. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 11:16 am:

    Holy crap!
    How amateur!
    Who is this Madigan guy and how long has he been playing politics?

  19. - Federalist - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 11:34 am:

    Darn it! You bea tme to it!

    - OneMan - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 9:57 am:

    Well the original wording of

    “Hey should we raise taxes on someone else” would not have passed constitutional muster…

  20. - ash - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 11:44 am:

    He rushes things through - things get missed. A grammatical error is minor compared to some of the practical errors that have routinely been shoved on the state.

  21. - Keyser Soze - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 12:27 pm:

    How does one spell deplorable?

  22. - Pelon - Tuesday, Jun 17, 14 @ 4:12 pm:

    Shouldn’t “receive” also be “receives”?

  23. - hosting - Wednesday, Jun 18, 14 @ 5:12 am:

    After exploring a number of the articles on your blog, I truly like your way of writing
    a blog. I book-marked it to my bookmark website list and will be checking
    back soon. Take a look at my website as well and let me know what you think.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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