Ralph Martire on the right. Photo credit: Gerald Berkowitz
There was a packed house at the North Lake Shore Illinois Retired Teachers Association luncheon at the Elks Club in Des Plaines yesterday.
I guess you could say we retired teachers are a bunch of budget geeks because Ralph Martire of the Center for Budget and Tax Accountability is our rock star. If you invite him to speak to our organization, he will sell out the joint. Which he did yesterday.
To those who think retired teachers only care about our pensions, the concern we have for the people – and the neediest people – in the entire state of Illinois was demonstrated by the rapt attention Ralph was given as he painted – with powerpoint slides and clear explanation – a sad picture of the state’s fiscal governance.
Ralph’s mantra has always been that Illinois’ budget problems cannot be solved by cuts. We are among the lowest taxing and lowest spending on the needs of the people of any state. The solution is in raising revenue. With Bruce Rauner as governor Martire does not believe it can be done by a constitutional change in the flat tax. He does believe it might be be done by an increase in the income tax, a tax on services and a phased-in tax on retirement income with those whose retirement income is highest paying the most.
While the anti-tax crowd said that the expiration of the temporary 5% income tax would trickle down to working families, Ralph showed how it has done just the opposite:
If you look closely at the cells in the slide, Ralph shows how those in Illinois who earn over a million dollars a year saved more in taxes than those in the lowest earning group earn in a year as total income.
Ralph hit particularly hard on the wage gap between whites and people of color in Illinois.
He demonstrated how spending on K-12 education is a primary driver of income equality and how Illinois’s low spending on K-12 combined with its reliance on local property taxes to fund schools has been a disaster for people of color. Ralph declared our tax policy an example of structural racism.
As for the claim that moving Illinois from the bottom tier of taxing and spending states would drive people out of the state?
Ralph Martire said, “The data just doesn’t support that position.”