Millionaire tax: Illinois voters say 'Yes,' but it's a long shot

This is where 70% of tax dollars go
This is where 70% of tax dollars go

The citizens of Illinois voted for a millionaire tax on Tuesday, but that doesn't mean it's going to become law.

They approved by a wide margin a proposal that would impose an additional 3% tax on income over $1 million to help fund schools, according to unofficial results counted by The Associated Press.

The nonbinding vote was essentially a measure of public opinion -- a way to send a message to state lawmakers.

Voters also ousted the Democratic incumbent governor, Pat Quinn, a proponent of the measure, and voted for his Republican opponent.

The House speaker, a Democrat, may bring similar legislation up again, his spokesman said, but "it's even less likely to go anywhere with a Republican governor," said David Merriman, a professor of public policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Meanwhile, Illinois' finances are in bad shape.

The state's fiscal woes could worsen in January, when its single 5% individual income tax rate is set to drop to 3.75% and the corporate income tax rate is set to fall as well.

Other states, of course, have considered higher taxes on millionaires in the past decade, and a few have even enacted them.

California in 2012 approved a 3% additional tax on income over $1 million that will be in effect through 2018. Revenue raised is going largely to schools.

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Connecticut, New Jersey and Maryland temporarily imposed a higher rate on high-income households -- both above the $1 million threshold and below.

Related: Voters to decide on raising the minimum wage

In 2010, Bill Gates Sr. backed a ballot measure that would have required Washington state, which has no individual income tax, to tax adjusted gross income over $400,000 for couples ($200,000 for singles) at 5% and income over $1 million at 9%.

Revenue from the Washington measure would have paid for middle class tax relief as well as education and health services. But it was defeated at the polls.

Some New Jersey Democrats, meanwhile, have also tried and failed to raise the tax rate on those making millions in an effort to offer property tax relief and help the state make its pension payments. This year they proposed a 10.75% rate on income over $1 million, which is what the rate was in 2009. The top rate currently is 8.97% on income over $500,000.

At the federal level, Democrats have repeatedly floated different types of millionaire taxes.

One that's gotten the most attention is President Obama's proposed "Buffett Rule" or "Fair Share Tax." That proposal called for those making more than $1 million to pay at least 30% of their income, after charitable contributions, in federal taxes.

The most recent incarnation of that idea came from Senator Elizabeth Warren, who proposed that the 30% minimum be imposed and used to pay for a program to help student loan borrowers buried in debt.

- CNNMoney's Gregory Wallace contributed to this report

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