A reader asks, “How can those of us not paying Illinois income tax say a whole lot about changing it?”
I assume my reader is referring to the fact that state pensions are not taxed.
So this is a good question.
Here are four reasons why every Illinois citizen should support a progressive income tax. And why everyone has a right to speak out on the issue.
1. The current system in which the very rich and those who earn the very least are taxed at the same rate is not fair and is poor public policy. Why should a housekeeper at the Hyatt Regency hotel, who barely earns enough to meet her obligations from paycheck to paycheck, pay the same rate of state taxes as Penny Pritzker, the multi-millionaire heiress whose family owns the hotel?
2. The current system of taxation has led Illinois to be among the lowest taxing and lowest spending states in the entire country. The current system does not allow the state to meet its current expenses, let alone address the growing social needs of its citizens. This creates a drag on the entire state’s economy.
3. As for retired state employees who no longer pay state income tax – but did over the course of their careers – the inability of the state to raise adequate revenue is the cause of the $100 billion dollar pension liability. For years the state did not bother to meet their pension payment obligations. It spent our pension money rather than raise taxes. At the same time they were giving tax breaks to giant corporations.
4. Suggesting that current retirees – because we do not presently pay a state income tax on our pensions – should have no voice in public or tax policy runs counter to my understanding of how democracy works.
Perhaps this is a question because we live in Illinois and are not accustomed to democracy.
But we don’t have a poll tax here. You don’t have to pay to speak.
Even though sometimes you have to pay to play.