‘Fair tax’ backers concede, blaming ‘deceived’ voters for loss

‘Fair tax’ backers concede, blaming ‘deceived’ voters for loss

Two-thirds of voters polled favored a “fair tax” in March. On Election Day that flipped to 55% opposing it. Voters understood how the amendment could usher in retirement and other taxes, but tax proponents found it easier to claim deceit.

“Fair tax” backers admitted defeat, but quickly blamed voters for being duped, again tried to create class divisions and still blamed former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s four years rather than House Speaker Mike Madigan’s 35 years.

“We are undoubtedly disappointed with this result but are proud of the millions of Illinoisans who cast their ballots in support of tax fairness in this election,” read a statement from Vote Yes For Fairness Chairman Quentin Fulks.

The “fair tax,” which would have allowed state lawmakers to divide taxpayers into smaller groups and tax as they saw fit, was defeated 55% to 45% with about 98% of the votes counted. The Illinois State Board of Elections reported another 300,000 to 400,000 mail-in ballots may remain to be counted, but the margin had the pro-tax group funded by $58 million from Gov. J.B. Pritzker conceding and blaming others.

“Illinois is in a massive budget crisis due to years of a tax system that has protected millionaires and billionaires at the expense of our working families, a crisis that was only made worse by the Coronavirus pandemic,” Fulks stated. “Republican legislators and their billionaire allies who brought us the dysfunction and pain of the Rauner years continue to stand in the way of common sense solutions, choosing instead to play partisan games and deceive the working families of our state. Now lawmakers must address a multi-billion dollar budget gap without the ability to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share. Fair Tax opponents must answer for whatever comes next.”

Illinois lawmakers are now faced with a choice: Continue cutting core services for Illinoisans in need, or address skyrocketing public pension costs crowding those services out of the state budget.

The choice should be simple: public pension reform.

Illinoisans already shoulder the nation’s highest state and local tax burden, driven largely by pension spending that has grown 500% since 2000 and is crowding out social services and law enforcement spending, as well as consuming significant amounts of education dollars. Pritzker’s plan to add $3 billion in new taxation through his “fair tax” did next to nothing to address the nation’s largest pension debt – $261 billion by one estimate. He only discussed using $200 million of the tax for pensions.

Illinois needs a constitutional amendment to change its state pension systems, which now eat more than 25% of the state budget. The idea was supported by a majority of Illinois voters polled in March.

Currently state retirees receive 3% compounding raises every year, regardless of the inflation rate or taxpayers’ ability to pay. Replacing those raises with true cost-of-living adjustments would fully fund the state’s pension systems, which now average only 40% of what they must eventually pay out.

Illinois would be able to keep its promise to retirees without bankrupting itself or taxpayers. It could do so without the 20% income tax hike Pritzker threatened if his “fair tax” failed.

With FBI agents circling the Statehouse, it is time to lay blame on Illinois’ power structure that led to the fiscal mess rather than voters or the rich or Rauner. It’s time for reforms, starting with public pension reform.

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