Illinois ballots don’t give voters plain language behind ‘fair tax’ amendment

Illinois ballots don’t give voters plain language behind ‘fair tax’ amendment

The amendment’s ballot language misleads voters about what a graduated income tax would do if passed Nov. 3 in Illinois.

Illinois voters should be aware they are voting to amend the Illinois Constitution’s income tax language on Nov. 3, but the actual wording of the amendment is nowhere to be seen on the ballot.

Instead, an explanation is offered that fails to tell voters what they are truly voting for. It explains Illinois currently has a flat income tax under which all taxpayers pay the same rate, and that the amendment itself does not set tax rates.

But then the explanation attempts to convince voters to support it. It explains most states and the federal government already impose a progressive income tax structure. It also says, “it gives the state the ability to impose higher tax rates on those with higher income levels and lower income tax rates on those with middle or lower income levels,” misleading voters into thinking they are voting to give a tax cut to lower and middle income earners.

Here is what the constitution would actually say if voters approve the amendment: “The General Assembly shall provide by law for the rate or rates of any tax on or measured by income imposed by the State.”

It goes on to delete the current language, which states “a tax on or measured by income shall be at a non-graduated rate. At any one time there may be no more than one such tax imposed by the State for State purposes on individuals and one such tax so imposed on corporations.”

Not only does the amendment change the state’s tax structure, it also removes protections from double taxation. The original language of the amendment preserved that protection, but by the time lawmakers produced the final language it made it much easier to impose city taxes.

This change to the General Assembly’s taxing powers would give Springfield much more authority to decide whom to tax, how much to tax, and even how many times to tax particular individuals or businesses. Taxpayers would no longer stand united, with the ability to retaliate at the ballot box for lawmakers raising everyone’s taxes. Lawmakers by a simple majority vote could divide taxpayers into smaller income groups and gradually impose new taxes with limited political backlash.

The language includes no restrictions or limitations on state politicians’ taxing power, other than a cap on the ratio between taxes imposed on corporations and on individuals.

What is presented to voters does not reflect the depth of this change, or even the words that will be placed in the constitution. Many will not know their income can be taxed twice. Instead, they will be expecting to pay a lower tax rate in the future because the explanation implies that.

Also unseen are the rates state lawmakers already passed, which include a marriage penalty on 4 million Illinoisans, fail to adjust for inflation so more taxpayers fall into higher brackets each year and tax increases of as much as 47% on over 100,000 small businesses – Illinois’ most fertile source of jobs.

Then there is the potential to impose retirement income taxes on 2 million Illinoisans age 65 and older.

Voters deserve to know what they are actually voting on. They should receive an impartial ballot question and explanation about how their taxes will be levied.

Instead, they received a dishonest portrayal of a change that could hand a blank checkbook to those responsible for 20 years of deficit budgets and $140 billion in pension debt.

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