Illi­nois vot­ers must sup­port a grad­u­ated in­come tax in Novem­ber

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION - Ad­di­son Wood­ward, Streeter­ville

Num­bers don’t lie. COVID-19 has had a dis­as­trous im­pact on the Illi­nois econ­omy. The state had re­duced its carry-over deficit from over $15 bil­lion at the end of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s term to some­what over $8 bil­lion last year. Since the pan­demic, rev­enue is way down and Illi­nois has had to bor­row $5 bil­lion this year to meet ex­ist­ing obli­ga­tions. By July 1, 2021, the deficit will be over $13 bil­lion and with­out new rev­enue it will con­tinue to grow.

For the past 20 years, leg­is­la­tors of both par­ties have not been hon­est about the cost of ser­vices that cit­i­zens want. They have not told the peo­ple that we need to in­crease taxes to fund these ser­vices. And they bor­rowed from the state’s pen­sion sys­tems by un­der­fund­ing them, thus in­creas­ing the pen­sion debt.

Illi­nois has a num­ber of al­ter­na­tives. One so­lu­tion could be to sub­stan­tially cut ser­vices. A sec­ond would be to in­crease the flat tax rate from the cur­rent 4.95% to 6% or be­yond. But the flat tax rate means that low wage earn­ers pay a greater per­cent­age of their in­come in taxes than those who are higher wage earn­ers, which ex­ac­er­bates racial and in­come in­equal­ity. Illi­nois is one of only a hand­ful of states with a flat in­come tax.

The third al­ter­na­tive is to be­gin tax­ing all or part of re­tire­ment in­come. Such an idea is not pop­u­lar, but nei­ther are the first two op­tions.

The pro­posed pro­gres­sive in­come tax will raise taxes on only about 3% of the pop­u­la­tion, those mak­ing over $250,000. As in­comes rise, this tax will gen­er­ate more rev­enue, and so rev­enue has a chance of keep­ing pace with the in­creas­ing costs of ser­vices. Such a tax will be­gin, al­beit slowly, to ad­dress in­come dis­par­ity. And the risk of fu­ture tax rate in­creases will be no more than al­ready ex­ists.

The cit­i­zens of Illi­nois need to sup­port a pro­gres­sive in­come tax or be pre­pared to see a sub­stan­tial in­crease in the flat tax or a huge cut in ser­vices.

I urge you to vote “yes” for a pro­gres­sive in­come tax in Novem­ber.

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