It appears that there is a short window for early voting in Illinois that begins on Sept 24. I had planned to vote by mail because of COVID, but I have decided to vote in person because that seems like the most surefire way to bank my vote in a way that cannot be fucked with.
September 24 is just one week from now, so I dutifully went online to find out who all the local candidates are, and discovered that there is a ballot initiative. I hate ballot initiatives because if you don’t do your homework ahead of time it’s nearly impossible to figure out the real impact.
Am I the only one who struggles with ballot initiatives?
If I’m not, and you want a place to talk about ballot initiatives in your state, this is where you can do it.
Since I live in Illinois, I’ll go first. When it comes to Ballot Initiatives, Ballotpedia is our friend.
It looks like this graduated tax should be a good thing, but these things are seldom as clear-cut as they seem.
What are the gotchas that I don’t know about? What are the less than obvious consequences of this constitutional amendment? Can they then decide to tax pensions? I don’t think they do now.
The last time we had one of these in Illinois, it was written to sound like a great deal, of course everyone should support it! Except that it would have opened the door to rewriting the constitution so they could take away pensions, etc. So these things always make me nervous.
Illinois Allow for Graduated Income Tax Amendment (2020)
The Illinois Allow for Graduated Income Tax Amendment is on the ballot in Illinois as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020.
A “yes” vote supports repealing the state’s constitutional requirement that the state personal income tax be a flat rate and instead allow the state to enact legislation for a graduated income tax.
A “no” vote opposes this constitutional amendment, thus continuing to require that the state personal income tax be a flat rate and prohibit a graduated income tax.
What do we look at as we try to decide?
Contributions to the Committees!
Illinois Allow for Graduated Income Tax Amendment (2020)
(That much money tells me that this tax amendment is a big deal.)
Who is Behind the Campaigns that Support and Oppose
Support: Vote Yes For Fairness
Oppose: Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike and Say No to More Taxes
(Naming can be very misleading and not very elucidating, so not very helpful.)
Which of the Two Sides Hates Michael Madigan (politician names will very by state!)
The Oppose people hate him. Strike one.
Who Supports the Ballot Initiative
Who Opposes the Ballot Initiative
The Support people are Dems and the unions, the Oppose people are Republicans and conservative organizations. Strike two.
Arguments in Support
House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22): “Middle-class families bear too much of the burden under the current tax system, and a Fair Tax will enable us to make the wealthy pay their fair share to balance the budget and invest in critical resources like education and health care — all while providing relief for 97% of taxpayers.”
Rev. Alan Taylor, senior minister of the Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation: “While overt racism seeks to prevent poor (often Brown and Black) people from voting in other states, here in Illinois, racism quietly masquerades as tax fairness. Worse, our state constitution ties the hands of legislators when it comes to revenue, allowing millionaires and billionaires to pay less in taxes as a share of their income than middle- and lower-income families. A flat tax appears fair on the face of it — everyone pays the same percentage to the state on their declared income. But drill down and look what families pay toward other kinds of taxes. The poor end up paying twice the percentage of their income in taxes — and are struggling just to make ends meet. Here in Illinois, there’s a huge gulf between the average Black family’s income and the average white family. Black people typically bear.”
Sen. Christopher Belt (D-57): “We are one of the few states in the country to still have a flat tax. We’re losing residents every year and they’re going to neighboring states that have a fair tax system. If we want to keep our residents in Illinois, we must adopt a fair tax or they are going to move to Minnesota, which is a leader in job creation because they have fair tax. It’s time for the wealthy in Illinois start paying their fair share and taxes be cut for working families.” [Source] Sen. Don Harmon (D-39): “If you’re saying the flat tax is a good idea, you are protecting the uber-rich, not the middle class. Because we can’t raise taxes on anyone without raising taxes on everyone, and that’s a protection for the richest among us.”
Trisha Crowley, president of the League of Women Voters of Champaign County: “In Illinois, the bottom 20 percent of wage earners currently pay almost twice as much of their total income for state and local taxes as the top 20 percent. This is an unjust burden on our poorest residents. As the income gap between rich and poor in the United States continues to grow, taxing our highest earners at a rate proportionate to their increasing concentration of income growth could also make a real difference in addressing the state’s well-known fiscal crisis. The proposed amendment will not itself change the current rates, but it will allow for them to be graduated.”
Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois State Director: “Illinois needs a plan to get out of the budget mess it has created, without shifting the burden to our older and middle-class residents. The Graduated Income Tax Amendment does not allow the state to tax retirement income, and it does not make it easier to tax retirement income in the future.”
Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability: “In what can only be described as piling on, the flat-rate income tax Illinois is constitutionally required to impose makes matters worse. Here’s why. All other taxes available to fund public services are “regressive,” meaning they take a greater portion of the earnings of low- and middle-income workers than affluent folks. The income tax is the sole tax that can be designed to offset the natural regressivity of every other tax, but only when levied using a graduated rate structure that comports with ability to pay, by imposing higher tax rates on higher levels of income, and lower rates on lower levels of income. … That sticks it to low and middle income workers in two key ways. First, it actually worsens the significant growth in income inequality that’s occurred over the last 40 years. Second, it exacerbates the economic harm wreaked by the pandemic.”
Arguments in Opposition
Sen. Dale Righter (R-55): “There are a handful who believe that the answer to government’s problems is simply to raise taxes. This will make it easier for those who believe that to reach into your constituents’ pockets and get more money.” [Source] Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-58): “Today’s Senate action continues to ignore the reality that Illinois politicians have an insatiable desire to spend more money and expand the size of government. Changing our taxing structure, without providing a means to limit spending or make it more difficult to raise taxes in the future, solves nothing. In fact, this plan will most likely only lead to more tax increases and higher spending in the future.” [Source]
Rep. Steven Reick (R-63): “This plan will not work. Do we need tax reform? You bet we do. This isn’t the way to do it. We need a global review of our entire tax system … with an operating system that tracks our economy, that doesn’t create class envy and class warfare and take money from those who are the most productive in our society.”
Mark Grant, Illinois State Director for the National Federation of Independent Business: “If approved by voters in the November election, Governor Pritzker’s progressive tax is going to harm small businesses and their employees. It would eliminate the state constitution’s flat tax protection and create multiple tax brackets and rates. That means the more you earn, the higher your tax rate. And unlike our current tax law, the income brackets and tax rates could be changed by a simple majority any time lawmakers feel the need to increase revenue. Based on past experience, there’s a real concern that the General Assembly will continue to pass tax increases in the coming years so they can keep spending on new programs without fixing the deficit. Small business owners understand that the General Assembly has to address Illinois’ financial calamity but raising taxes without making major spending reforms won’t make things better.”
Illinois Chamber of Commerce: The Illinois Chamber of Commerce released a statement opposing the graduated income tax amendment, which included, “Illinois’ current flat rate income tax is inherently more fair than a graduated income tax since everyone pays the same rate and tax increases uniformly impact everyone. A flat rate tax does not promote divisive class warfare rhetoric or purposefully attempt to re-distribute income according to a subjective fairness standard. A flat rate tax requires all taxpayers to vigilantly stand guard against excessive government spending.”
What say you Illinois peeps and other smart people who are good at reading between the lines?
What are the gotchas that I don’t know about? What are the less than obvious consequences of this constitutional amendment? Can they then decide to tax pensions?