Hard to trust Illinois politicians who won’t trust voters with the truth
The political cost for raising taxes is exactly why the constitution’s authors created a flat tax protection. About 30% of the lawmakers from the 100th Illinois General Assembly were gone after passing the 2017 income tax hike.
“People who fail to regard the truth seriously in small matters, cannot be trusted in matters that are great.”
– Excerpt from Albert Einstein’s last statement, April 1955
A decade before Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker was born, Albert Einstein already had Springfield’s number. If lawmakers fail to be honest with the details, then how can they be trusted with the big picture?
Sept. 24 is the start of when voters need to remember that: Early voting begins, and through Nov. 3 voters for the first time in 40 years get a say on whether state lawmakers should be told “no” to greater taxing powers.
When voters see the ballot question, they will see it coupled to what some will construe as an inaccuracy, others as a lie. In any case, the drafters may have violated the Illinois Constitution’s “free and equal” elections clause because they biased the ballot description of the amendment, which is meant to be accurate and neutral.
The description reads: “The proposed amendment grants the State authority to impose higher income tax rates on higher income levels …”
That’s wrong. There is nothing in the amendment that limits state lawmakers to soaking the rich. What the amendment does is eliminate the protection built in to the 1970 Illinois Constitution that guarantees everyone will be taxed at the same rate. Unsurprisingly, this misleading ballot language was passed on a party line vote in the Illinois Senate.
The amendment would let state lawmakers with a simple majority vote target any group of taxpayers they wish either up or down the income ladder. Any time they need more money, they can decide to roll another income group into a higher tax bracket.
They already passed a bill setting initial progressive tax rates: Those earning over $250,000 would see a tax hike Jan. 1; those at the low end would get a break that barely buys a fast food meal, while still paying $1,800 in state and local taxes. Nothing stops lawmakers from changing the rates the day after the Nov. 3 election.
Public pension costs going up? Lower the bracket to $200,000, then $180,000, then eventually to the group with the greatest revenue potential: the middle class, as happened in the last state to impose a progressive tax.
Or, go after retirees by charging their income at a lower rate. Illinois currently spares retirees from state income taxes. But of all 32 states with progressive tax systems, all 32 tax retirement income in some form.
Any time state lawmakers want to spend money, they can split off a group large enough to create the revenue they want but small enough that few of those lawmakers will pay the political price for raising taxes.
That political cost for raising taxes is exactly why the constitution’s authors created a flat tax protection. When state lawmakers last raised the state income tax rate to 4.95% in 2017, there was a wave of turnover in Springfield. About 30% of the lawmakers from the 100th Illinois General Assembly were gone after the hike passed as a result of quitting or being forcibly retired by voters.
Remove that protection, and voters are left trusting the same group of politicians who gave Illinois the nation’s second-worst finances, 20 years of deficit budgets, $241 billion in pension debt and five key supporters of this amendment convicted, indicted or under investigation for corruption.
Voters are also left with a $3.7 billion tax hike without the promised property tax relief, pushed by a governor who tried to dodge $331,000 of his own property taxes, and who doesn’t trust voters with a clean, unbiased description on the ballot.
Pritzker wants unfettered taxing authority so badly that he’s spent $56.5 million of his own money trying to convince voters his is the “fair tax.” Even his branding of the scheme is a misnomer: There’s nothing fairer than Illinois’ current system that treats everyone the same by taxing them at the same, flat rate.
In small matters, in matters that are great: Truth matters. Pritzker and Co. are not serious about truth in taxation, and voters should say “no” to trusting them and their progressive tax.