Breaking it Down: Examining the Progressive Tax Amendment

The proposed amendment would not affect retirement income and if approved, the constitutional change would go into effect January 1.
Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 7:08 PM CDT
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ILLINOIS (WIFR) - Talk of a progressive income tax in Illinois now makes its way to the voters, as a constitutional amendment to change the structure sits on the November ballot.

“The issue is not how you make your money - the issue is how much money do you make and what’s your ability to help pay for things like education, roads, prisons," said Kurt Thurmaier, chair of Northern Illinois University’s Department of Public Administration. "All those kinds of things that are what government has to pay for, that most people think we should be paying money for.”

Proponents of the move say it’s an issue that crosses party lines.

“Taxes are deeply personal, it’s not a Democrat or Republican issue," said Quentin Fulks, Executive Director of the political committee Vote Yes For Fairness. "We have never tried to frame it that way because we know that this is going to be beneficial to both Democrats and Republicans alike.”

Those opposed say raising taxes will push people already struggling with rising property and vehicle taxes to find a new place to call home.

“No one in the state wants higher taxes," said Lissa Druss, spokesperson for the political committee Stop the Proposed Tax Hike Amendment. "You can just look at the outward migration of our state and people growing across the border to Iowa or Wisconsin or anywhere, people are leaving because of our already high taxes.”

Under the proposed graduated structure, six new rates, ranging from 4.75 to 7.95 percent, would tax people based on how much they earn, rather than one flat rate, which experts say is a familiar concept.

“The principle of a progressive income tax isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue," said Thurmaier. "The issue of whether people who make a little bit less income should pay a little bit less in taxes and people who paid, who have more of an income should pay more. That’s a public finance principle that’s really, really old.”

As Election Day approaches, both groups say voters should think of where they would like to see the future of Illinois.

“We’re only voting to give Springfield more power, and the small business owners and the family farmers and the retirees across the state," said Druss. "Springfield politicians are asking us to trust them with a blank check to change the rates, and the brackets, whenever they want. Our coalition or bipartisan coalition is saying we don’t trust Springfield right now.”

“The question that’s really going to be on the ballot for voters is if the tax burden in the state of Illinois is going to continue to fall on lower and middle income families and the state, or if we’re going to ask the wealthiest in our state, the top 3%, to step up and pay a little bit more because they can afford to do so,” said Fulks.

The proposed amendment would not affect retirement income and if approved, the constitutional change would go into effect January 1.

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