Pritzker takes 1 step forward, 2 steps back on tax hike push

Pritzker takes 1 step forward, 2 steps back on tax hike push

With taxpayer opposition intensifying, the governor’s vision for a $3.4 billion progressive income tax hike is slipping away.

J.B. Pritzker announced his run for governor of Illinois more than two years ago.

From the jump, his campaign pushed a simple policy message: pass a progressive income tax constitutional amendment. Pritzker has been singing the same song throughout his first four months in office. And a group bankrolled by Pritzker called “Think Big” has spent more than $3 million on TV commercials selling this argument across the state.

But with taxpayer opposition intensifying, the governor’s vision for a $3.4 billion progressive income tax hike is slipping away.

On May 7, Southern Illinois Democratic state Rep. Jerry Costello announced his resignation from the General Assembly and appointment to a position as the director of law enforcement at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. He was the lone House Democrat who vocally opposed Pritzker’s constitutional amendment. Progressive tax backers saw this as a win.

But the very next day, two courageous House Democrats from the other end of the state publicly voiced their opposition to Pritzker’s plan, too. State Reps. Sam Yingling and Jonathan Carroll both pointed out the severe lack of protections for property taxpayers in their districts.

Yingling represents the Lake County communities of Round Lake, Round Lake Beach and Grayslake. Carroll’s district straddles Cook and Lake counties, including communities like Northbrook and Buffalo Grove.

“The current proposals do not adequately address the crushing burden that our property tax system places on homeowners,” Yingling wrote in a May 8 letter to the Chicago Tribune. “I will be a ‘no’ vote unless adoption of a progressive income tax ends the state’s regressive and abusive property tax system.”

Carroll also urged caution.

“I am a ‘no’ on this plan and changing the constitution. I’m not opposed to modernizing how we tax in Illinois, but this has to be done right,” Carroll said in a statement. “The current proposals don’t address our oppressive property tax issues.”

Yingling and Carroll are right. And there are more Democrats waiting in the wings.

Illinois Policy Institute research shows that even under generous assumptions, any promise of middle-class income tax relief under Pritzker’s progressive income tax plan would quickly be wiped out by routine property tax hikes.

That’s because the governor’s plan for a progressive income tax does nothing to address some of the biggest cost drivers for both state and local governments: pensions and government worker health insurance. Without reforms to those costs, property tax bills will continue to balloon.

So what happens when Illinois lawmakers do the right thing and stand up for taxpayers – specifically homeowners facing some of the nation’s highest property tax rates?

They’re attacked by Pritzker.

“Those who oppose this plan are siding with millionaires and the very wealthy against everyday Illinoisans,” the governor’s office stated, “and they need to offer an alternative that will fix our state’s long-standing fiscal challenges.”

At the time of that response, Pritzker had reportedly not met with either lawmaker to discuss his progressive income tax amendment.

The governor has only himself to blame for opposition to his proposal. Pritzker has not earned the trust of taxpayers who look beyond the “fair share” rhetoric and see a state that remains unwilling to balance its books – while they pay more in taxes each year.

In an interview with ABC 7 on his first 100 days in office, Pritzker confirmed there were “no guarantees” against middle class tax hikes should the progressive tax constitutional amendment fall his way.

The governor’s plan ultimately relies on a political promise that many Illinoisans aren’t willing to accept.

Apparently, their elected officials aren’t buying it either.

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