‘Let voters decide’ is a weak argument for Pritzker’s progressive income tax amendment
Polling indicates the progressive income tax is unpopular in key Illinois House districts.
With the May 31 legislative deadline fast approaching, the fate of many major policy initiatives – among them, cannabis legalization, sports betting, a capital bill and the progressive income tax – hangs in the balance.
Despite the fact that a progressive income tax opens the door for a $3,500 tax hike on the typical Illinois family, and is projected to cost the state 286,000 jobs and $43 billion in economic activity, in recent days Gov. J.B. Pritzker has stated he is confident that he will get his prized progressive income tax amendment on the statewide ballot in November 2020.
However, polling shows this confidence may be unjustified. In many key legislative districts – where lawmakers have stated they are undecided on the progressive income tax proposal – the graduated income tax and Pritzker himself are underwater.
These numbers are especially telling, given the rhetoric surrounding the governor’s progressive income tax campaign. Pritzker has adopted “let the people decide” as his main slogan during this effort and other lawmakers have defended their support for the $3.4 billion tax hike using this message. However, this is just a way for lawmakers to duck their responsibility to represent their constituents on this issue.
In recent days, further new polling shows strong opposition to Pritzker’s progressive income tax amendment in House District 116, held by newly appointed state Rep. Nathan Reitz. Just 22% of likely voters in his district favor Pritzker’s proposal to put a progressive income tax constitutional amendment on the ballot while 57% oppose it, including 44% who “strongly oppose” the measure. And by a more than 2-to-1 margin (41% less likely versus 18% more likely), voters are less likely to vote for a state representative who voted in favor of the governor’s proposed constitutional amendment. Independents are less likely by a wide, 26-point margin (summary memo, topline, crosstabs).
If these lawmakers vote in favor of the progressive income tax amendment, they will be ignoring the preferences of their own constituents. A “yes” vote on this amendment means their voters’ voices will be drowned out by more populous areas of the state – particularly Chicago.
These representatives were elected to represent their districts, not to hand off important policy decisions that would greatly affect their districts to other areas of the state.
These lawmakers owe it to their constituents to vote “no” on Pritzker’s progressive income tax amendment.