Black business leader speaks out about ‘fair tax’ harms, gets axed from Pritzker event

Black business leader speaks out about ‘fair tax’ harms, gets axed from Pritzker event

Pritzker’s progressive income tax amendment would hurt small, minority-owned businesses the most.

Illinois State Black Chamber of Commerce President Larry Ivory was scheduled to be on a webinar celebrating National Black Business Month, but he was uninvited after he spoke out about the harms to small businesses from Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “fair tax.”

In a Chicago Tribune op-ed, Ivory said he was scheduled Aug. 13 to be a panelist at the governor’s office’s request for an Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity webinar. He was told the day before the webinar he was no longer invited.

Ivory said that’s because he was mentioned Aug. 10 in Politico as an opponent of Pritzker’s progressive income tax amendment.

“As the head of the ILBCC, it is my duty to do what is right for our members and for the communities we represent,” Ivory wrote in his op-ed. “We take no joy in not being in sync with the governor, but opposing this amendment is the right thing to do. Adding a tax hike that is going to hurt communities that are already hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic defies our best interests.”

Ivory cited an Illinois Chamber of Commerce study that found disturbing results, especially for minorities, should voters Nov. 3 pass Pritzker’s “fair tax” amendment to the Illinois Constitution. The state would lose $2 billion in economic activity. Increased consumer costs, as well as job losses, would disproportionately affect minorities.

Ivory called it “ironic” that Pritzker was hosting an event in support of Black businesses while excitedly pushing for massive tax hikes on them.

“Since [Pritzker] took office, he has turned down seven requests from the ILBCC to meet or have him speak to our members. If he had sat down with us to discuss his agenda, he would have known our concerns. Gov. Pritzker is the first Illinois governor in our history not to meet with us,” Ivory wrote.

If passed, the progressive income tax amendment would hike taxes on over 100,000 small businesses by up to 47%. Small businesses make up 97% of the ILBCC, according to Ivory. Minorities own 40% of Illinois’ small businesses. They would see their income tax rates rise to as much as 9.49% from 6.45%, almost as high as the current corporate rate.

“If taxes go up it’s going to be kind of hard for some small businesses to survive. A lot of small businesses really don’t make a lot of money,” said Ramon Gladey, a barber from Chicago.

Research by the Illinois Policy Institute found Black and Hispanic women were hardest hit by Pritzker’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order after their jobs were deemed nonessential. Institute research also found progressive taxes damage businesses, making it harder to bring workers back and actually increasing income inequity and poverty.

Publicly, Pritzker has signaled his support for policies to help Illinois’ underprivileged communities. But in private, he has spent $56.5 million of his own money to push for something that will only make life harder on people of color.

“Let’s become the first state that puts in action the policies that recognize that Black lives matter,” Pritzker said at a protest in June.

By pushing for a tax increase that will directly harm Black businesses and workers, Pritzker is advocating for a policy that will further the economic inequality being protested. The governor must understand that. Otherwise, he wouldn’t feel the need to try to silence a minority business leader who sees the flaws in the “fair tax” plan.

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