Don Rose is a veteran progressive political consultant and activist.
Second only to top-of-the-ballot votes for Joe Biden and Democratic senate and congresspersons, we Illinois voters must (go to the top of the) ballot and vote YES on what will be listed as the “proposed amendment of Section 3 of Article IX of the Illinois Constitution.”
It will permit Illinois to join most of the nation in establishing a graduated state income tax to replace the flat 4.95 percent we now pay, regardless of our incomes—a graduated tax such as we pay Uncle Sam.It is a matter of fairness and economic necessity. We need the revenue.
Let me give you some history.We never had a state income tax until 1969, when a courageous moderate Republican governor (yes there once were such) named Richard Ogilvie got one passed with a rate of 2.5 percent. That year there were elections to the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention and a nascent independent progressive movement elected delegates up and down Chicago’s lakefront (giving rise to the term “lakefront liberal”) plus elsewhere in the city and downstate.
That band of independents helped give us a very progressive constitution in the areas of civil rights, civil liberties and gender equity—but failed in their economic goal of establishing a graduated income tax similar to the federal government. The power of money and a conservative establishment killed it off. Ogilvie was defeated two years later—as he feared might happen for sponsoring the tax.Ever since progressives have tried to get a constitutional change on the ballot, but never were able to muster up the super-majority in the legislature necessary to do so—until now, thanks to Governor J.B. Pritzker and boss-of-bosses, the much investigated Speaker of the House Mike Madigan.Pritzker ran on the issue and is putting up millions of his personal billions to get it passed in November’s referendum, but other billionaires, millionaires and fiscal conservatives are fighting it even harder than they did at the constitutional convention. The opposition strikes all kinds of fears, such as an exodus of businesses from the state, higher taxes for everyone and any other spaghetti they can throw at the wall.
The fact is, quoting the Chicago Tribune: Income between $10,000 and $100,000 would be taxed at 4.9%, and the rate would remain at 4.95% for income between $100,000 and $250,000. From there, single filers would be 7.75% for income between $250,000 and $350,000, and 7.85% for income between $350,000 and $750,000.In short, many would pay less, most others the same, while top levels—who can well afford it—would pay more. That’s why they call it the Fair Tax.
The only poll I know showed 2 to 1 support for the tax, but that done before the onslaught against it.
To become a reality either 50 percent of all voters must support it—very unlikely since so many vote only top of the ticket—or 60 percent of those who actually vote on the issue must say yes. Very possible—but you must remember to vote and remind all your friends. It will not solve all the state’s economic problems, but it will be a major stride—and a fair one.