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2 views on the graduated income tax
OUR VIEW

2 views on the graduated income tax

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The Herald & Review editorial board is offering a point-counterpoint to the graduated income tax ballot item in November. 

TAX AMENDMENT: Vote 'no' and settle other concerns first

Few things are more discouraging than uncertainty.

Lives require a degree of assurance. When figuring out budgets, we need to know what’s available. That starts from individuals to households to business, right up to the state budget-makers in Springfield.

We’ve also had a decent amount of exposure to what Springfield does with its taxpayers’ money. That includes income taken from individuals and households and businesses.

With the comically named Fair Tax Amendment, we would be giving those politicians access to even more of our cash.

Why would you vote in favor of that?

The bill has been advertised well, giving supporters any number of us-versus-them arguments to make, whether they’re specifically in the bill or not. The assertion that the increased tax would only affect those making at least $250,000 and the assertion that the passage would only negatively affect 3% of the population might be populist, but it might also be fantasy.

Those who make more already pay more. More tax removed from paychecks, higher property tax bills, and likely more money paid in sales tax.

Those threats about pension income? They’re not threats, they’re very real possibilities. Too many in Springfield have eyed those funds hungrily.

As such, the amendment poses a definite threat to retirees and the state’s vanishing middle class. They’re the ones with less opportunity to depart the start and more likely to be targeted by Springfield if and when those able to move elsewhere finally do. AARP and senior groups this week came out in support of the amendment, but opposed to a tax on retirement income. Unfortunately, we’re not voting on the latter. Retirement accounts can still have a target on them.

The folly is in discussing, let alone voting, on the amendment. Illinois has a pension disaster it can’t continue to ignore. (Although many sources have asserted that for many years, and ignoring it is the one thing Illinois has mastered.)

If we have the temerity to change the Constitution to change how we’re taxed, we should also be able to vote to change state pensions, which are considerably larger that most in the private sector receive. Another significant change, term limits, is also long overdue.

Have all budgetary cutting possibilities been considered, let alone implemented? Giving Illinois more money to spend without addressing the bad habits is akin to trying to get an addict off of drugs by giving them more drugs.

TAX AMENDMENT: Vote 'yes' in absence of other solutions

We’ve already voted in favor of the Fair Tax Amendment. Our opportunity to reject it was in 2018.

J.B. Pritzker hasn’t blinked away from his Fair Tax Amendment, from his speeches on the campaign trail to putting his pocketbook where his plan was to presenting a budget that included funds from the anticipated passage.

Pritzker's election cushion of 55%-39% was the most lopsided in an Illinois gubernatorial race since Jim Edgar's re-election in 1994. The people have spoken, and when they speak next month, they should finish the job and approve Pritzker’s Fair Tax Amendment.

It’s not an argument that the wealthier among us can afford to pay more taxes. It’s that the poor cannot. The problem is while a dollar is a dollar in the marketplace, there’s a significant difference when we apply the question of percentage of income.

Where are the fixes going to come from? Remember mental health specialists taking over the role now served by police in some calls? Remember how concerned we were about opioids before life was interrupted by a pandemic? Remember, there is fallout from COVID-19 that we have yet to even realize.

All of those fixes will need to be paid for. Rather than bluntly spitting a “no” at the idea of the amendment, its opponents would do well to propose alternatives instead of thinking its supporters see the amendment as a magic bullet to solve multiple issues.

The amendment is no magic bullet. But it’s a pathway to beginning to take on a huge project.

Both sides are arguing that the legislature will be free to raise taxes regardless of the outcome. So apparently we can agree on that, and eliminate that point from the discussion. If taxes are going to go up, small business owners and “millionaires and billionaires” will be paying more regardless.

A popular complaint from opponents is some variation on “They lied before, what says they’re not lying again?” The problem is, if we apply that question across the board, we wouldn’t be able to vote for anyone. Allowing people the opportunity to change their mind is a must. We do so as voters all the time. We don’t have progress without change.

If Illinois wanted a governor who was going to slice and dice a budget more than Pritzker will have to whether or not the amendment passes, they would have re-elected Rauner.

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