Generally, when it comes to election referenda, Illinois is pretty listless. We never get any cool votes like legal weed or sports betting (s/o JB) because our state requires that laws be passed by the legislature, not public referenda.
But this year, folks – this year is different. Finally, through some sort of weird legislative loophole that I don’t really understand, Illinois voters will be able to take to the polls to vote on a progressive income tax championed by Governor Pritzker and Democrats around the state. This referenda, if passed, would provide a framework to tax higher income brackets at higher tax rates, as opposed to Illinois’ current flat tax system.
A progressive income tax would not automatically raise your taxes, as the Republicans (bankrolled by billionaires who don’t want to be taxed) would like you to believe. They need to manipulate the electorate in order to win. It’s kind of sad if you think about it for too long.
It’s sad that the Illinois GOP has to create a boogeyman of future tax raises (which are always on the table, by the way – that’s what governments do) in order to distract voters from the facts as they stand: the new progressive income tax DOES NOT raise taxes on anyone making less than a quarter of a million dollars. It is not a “tax hike,” for the middle class, and it certainly won’t affect the vast majority of people who will vote “No” this November.
Contrary to what the TV and YouTube ads would have you believe, the progressive income tax isn’t an idea that’s rooted in absurdity. 32 states already have a graduated income tax, including renown progressive strongholds *checks notes* Iowa, Nebraska, West Virginia and Ohio!
It isn’t some sort of boogeyman to raise taxes on the middle class, it’s a legitimate strategy that has been adopted by nearly 2/3rds of all states! No matter what the billionaires want you to believe, there is ample bipartisan precedent for this across the country.
What the tax does do, however, is set the stage for a more fair future. It abandons Illinois’ flat tax, which has gained us membership in the “Terrible Ten” of states with tax structures that actively hurt the most vulnerable.
Did you know that under Illinois’ current tax structure, a billionaire and someone who makes $50,000 a year pay the same 4.95% tax rate on their income?
That doesn’t seem very fair, right?
The flat tax is ineffective, and at a time when Illinois has to get more creative than ever with revenue, why would we not want a more effective tax structure? Downstate Republicans love to complain about the fiscal state of Illinois, but when it comes to new, fair ways to generate revenue, they balk. It’s phony doublespeak. It doesn’t make any sense.
If Republicans were at all interested in investing in Illinois’ infrastructure, education, or public safety (as they tend to loudly pronounce), they’d support this. This means more money for services that benefit all Illinoisans. Campaigning against the fair tax is absolutely a campaign against properly funding social services in favor of the ultra-wealthy.
But here’s what really matters: if we get too down into the weeds on this argument – on whether or not the government can raise your taxes (they can at any time regardless of structure), on trickle down economics (has been disproven for decades) or on whether this will lead to massive out-migration of wealth (it won’t, Chicago is a world-class city), we’ve already lost.
The Illinois right wing is obfuscating what is really a clear and simple question: should the wealthy pay more in taxes than the middle class? Most people, when faced with that simple question, answer “Yes”.
The reason that all of the local Farm Services stations are distributing “Vote NO!” signs in rural areas isn’t because a vote that way actually benefits that geographic population. It doesn’t. Not even close. There are very few people in downstate Illinois who make over $250,000 a year. That’s not offensive snark, that’s factual; our economies and cost-of-living are smaller than the rest of the state.
The reason they’re doing this here is to manipulate those who typically vote Republican into voting against their own interests to protect the ultra-wealthy. If they had real criticisms, they would criticize the actual structure of the law, but instead, the criticisms are about unfounded hypotheticals and fear-mongering.
Don’t be duped. Vote in your own interest. For most of us, it’s pretty clear what that is.
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You can read the full progressive income tax verbiage here: