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Question of the day

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2014

* Greg Hinz writes about yesterday’s widely expected failure of a constitutional amendment for a graduated income tax

Mr. Harmon’s problem wasn’t with his proposal. It was with the timing of his proposal, which comes at the very same time that lawmakers are preparing to vote on making permanent the “temporary” Illinois income tax.

Instead of being revenue-neutral overall, Mr. Harmon’s proposal and companion bill would have set rates at a level designed to pull in as much money overall as the pending permanent income tax hike. Thus, only individual income below $12,000 a year would be subject to a 2.9 percent rate. Anything above that would be hit with 4.9 percent or 6.9 percent, this at a time when rates are set to revert to 3.75 percent on Jan. 1 unless the Legislature extends the “temporary” hike.

Bottom line: While Mr. Harmon was trying to sell what advocates dubbed a “fair tax,” his plan was easily dubbed a “tax increase.”

If the senator really wants to pass a graduated income tax, my suggestion is to let lawmakers do what they’re going to do this year — and that’s probably to make the current 5 percent individual tax rate permanent. Then next year, he can come back with a proposal that’s truly revenue neutral and only shifts the burden around from the bottom toward the top.

* The Question: If you could give any unsolicited advice to proponents and opponents of a graduated tax for Illinois, what would it be?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Oneman - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 1:37 pm:

    A) Good Luck

    B) If it was revenue neutral or really close and didn’t have an insane top end vs bottom end rate I would be cool with it even if I end up paying more.

  2. - Jeff Trigg - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 1:44 pm:

    Don’t tax the income of any poor people.

  3. - countyline - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 1:46 pm:

    If its revenue neutral, why do anything ?

  4. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 1:53 pm:

    Proponents: Let the temporary flat tax increase expire, and let folks live for a while under the budgets it will produce.

    Opponents: Make the temporary flat tax increase permanent.

  5. - Gene Debs - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 1:59 pm:

    If we go back to a 3.75% rate, there will be lots of pain, and I think we can expect further job losses. I’m sure the GA, or at least the super majority Democrats, do not want that. I expect the leadership knows what it wants and has a strategy in mind to make it happen. They have to think about what works politically as well as economically. We can only wait and see confident that they will do the right thing. It may be after they have tried everything else.

  6. - Southsider - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 1:59 pm:

    My advice…keep your word.

  7. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:00 pm:

    For proponents, I’d agree with Wordslinger. The stick (massive, debilitating spending cuts) will work in this instance to get people to see there is a major revenue issue in this state. I’d also say that an alternative is to design a system that collects less revenue than under the current flat 5% system, but more than under the old 3% or the scheduled 3.75% and try to sell that since it would still be a tax cut from the current status quo.

    For opponents, I’d say just keep up their same arguments because people hate taxes until their teachers and cops and hospitals go kaput.

  8. - Just Me - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:07 pm:

    It’s always politically popular to tax someone else.

  9. - PublicServant - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:08 pm:

    Proponents: Keep trying. It’s the fair and right thing to do.

    Opponents: Taxing marginal income at higher rates provides more bang for the buck because those marginal dollars progressively are less likely to be spent and thus help the economy. Those additional dollars left in the pockets of those lower income voters will be spent, thus causing business to sell more widgits, and hire more people to meet the increased demand, and those new employees will, in turn, spend and so on and so on and so on. Ask Scott Walker in Wisconsin, if you don’t believe me, since, if we had their tax structure we’d be more than flush. As a reason for leaving, taxes are quite low on the list of motivators. Thanks gallop!

  10. - Toure's Latte - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:12 pm:

    Raising taxes of full-time minimum wage earners is not a good idea. Maybe couple it with a diminishing income (as it goes up) exemption somehow, to lower their effective rate?

  11. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:14 pm:

    Notice how the Civvies of the Commercial Club are awfully silent about extending the temporary tax.

    They don’t care about the corporate rate, because most of their companies don’t pay state taxes anyway.

    But those in the $20 million CEO club will gladly take a 5% personal rate over a graduated rate like 8.98% in Iowa or 7.65% in Wisconsin.

  12. - Jimbo - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:16 pm:

    They should just keep the 5% and make the standard deduction 25k. That makes 50k pay 2.5%, 100k pay 3.75% and 200k pay 4.375%. Graduated tax without requiring a CA. And they get to keep the high rate wile claiming it is a tax cut for everyone under 100k, even over the scheduled rate reduction.

  13. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:16 pm:

    Everyone knows that the GOP hates taxes, so when you put them into power when the state government is flat out bankrupted like it is in Illinois today - when those Republicans say we need more money to keep government functioning, the public will more easily accept it.

    So if you believe Illinois government has a revenue problem, not a spending problem - show Illinoisans that you are right by putting tax-hating GOPers into office and having them tell Illinoisans instead.

    Blagojevich, Madigan and Quinn have no credibility on this issue among a majority of Illinois voters. Illinoisans don’t trust them. So they won’t give them more money without a fight.

    The whole lame duck Quinncome Tax boondoggle is the result of Illinoisans unwilling to give their corrupted and foolish state leaders more money. It was the only way the Democrats could propose an increase - use the lame duck session, throw in a sunset clause to claim it is temporary, claim that the increase would only go to pay old bills and give away golden parachutes for votes to pass it.

    If we still had the GOP in control - that wouldn’t have happened. Voters trust the GOP with their money more than they do the Democrats.

    It is tiring to read the same complaint repeatedly here. You guys want more money from citizens? Then get people into office the citizens will believe and trust.

    Or haven’t you noticed how we’ve had this problem over the past decade since we’ve had one-party rule?

  14. - Jimbo - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:17 pm:


  15. - RNUG - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:18 pm:

    Review how Richard Ogilvie sold the original personal property / income tax swap … then find a strong leader to sell this swap.

  16. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:18 pm:

    Yup - vote for Rauner if you want a tax increase the public will accept.

  17. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:20 pm:

    That is - if you really believe that we have only a revenue problem, and not a spending problem, vote for Rauner. Let him confront the reality you keep claiming it right there, regardless of political party.

  18. - 4 percent - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:32 pm:

    Illinois already has a graduated tax. The EITC provides substantial relief for low income taxpayers, many of whom pay no tax and actually get money back.

  19. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:35 pm:

    Proponents: Listen to Hinz. He hits the nail right on the head.

  20. - Formerly Known As... - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:37 pm:

    Proponents: Also, make certain the state shows better stewardship of our funds over the next year or two.

    Most people are willing to pay taxes, as long as they feel they are getting their money’s worth.

  21. - Anon - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 2:52 pm:

    == vote for Rauner if you want a tax increase ==

    There’s a catchy slogan. I wonder how many Republicans understand that reality?

    I second the proposal to jack up the personal exemption for a family of four to $25K while keeping the rate at 5%. No constitional amendment necessary, unless the ISC rules it violates the flat tax requirement.

    Gov. Rauner will raise taxes, but they will be more regressive ones. Stick with that plan.

  22. - RonOglesby - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 3:01 pm:

    ” Taxing marginal income at higher rates provides more bang for the buck because those marginal dollars progressively are less likely to be spent and thus help the economy.”

    This is a great fallacy. Like 100k or 200k a year house holds dont spend that money… cars, homes, new appliances, clothes, etc, etc. And anything they save is either in the bank (which is lent to other people and businesses) or in the market (capitalizing business).

  23. - Adam Smith - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 3:12 pm:

    Also for you economic pinheads who think people with high incomes stuff cash in their mattresses. Where do you think YOUR mortgage came from? Your car loan? Your small biz loan? The capital that starts new companies?

    This is our real problem, so many people, even those as ostensibly politically astute as CapFax commenters, are economic illiterates. They vote based on fear, hatred, revenge and personal gain. That’s both sides of the aisle.

  24. - Upon Further Review - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 3:29 pm:

    Practice austerity and demonstrate good stewardship before daring to ask for a tax increase.

  25. - CapnCrunch - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 3:44 pm:

    “Those additional dollars left in the pockets of those lower income voters will be spent,……”

    Isn’t this a good reason to allow the current tax rate to be reduced to 3.5%?

  26. - CapnCrunch - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 3:45 pm:

    oops 3.75%

  27. - Walker - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 4:04 pm:

    VMan: ===”we’ve had this problem over the past decade since we’ve we had one-party rule.”===

    I followed your whole argument, and you make some good points, but the fiscal problems and structural deficit are thirty-five-year problems in Illinois.

    @Adam Smith”" your “economic illiterates” on one side focus entirely on the supply side, as you described, while those one the other focus on increasing demand. Of course, both dynamics count.

    The balance between the two is what the argument is about, for those of us who operate and study business and economics in the real world.

    Because economic behavior actually changes as income rises, to create an optimal income tax structure, that both supports the market economy and the common infrastructure, security, and services of government, (assuming it isn’t zero by definition) would require different rates by income level.

    No one doubts at the lowest income levels, any additional money gets immediately back into the system creating higher demand. In fact, the higher the income, the greater the leakage of potential productive capital (defined as actually invested in job creation activities) out of the economic system. That’s especially true given worldwide financial markets. That’s usually not a problem at the income levels Ron Oglesby describes, but at significantly higher levels it is.

    To be “economically literate” is not to buy into any simplistic one-sided view.

    As I’m sure you would know, Adam Smith himself would find some modern “Conservative” economics, as touted by politicians and most Randians, as ridiculously simplistic. Smith’s ideal “free market” assumed a good deal of government regulation to keep it working freely for all participants. Keynes would find the economic statements of modern Liberal politicians equally stupid.

  28. - Anon - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 4:18 pm:

    Thanks for your consistently constructive contributions. I think there is something to be said for divided government. With a GOP governor calling for some tax hikes, Durkin and Radogno will put some votes on it — something they refuse to do now. It’s remarkable how fast the anti-tax pledges can be deep sixed when it’s convenient to do so.

  29. - Wensicia - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 4:20 pm:

    “Those additional dollars left in the pockets of those lower income voters will be spent,……”

    “Isn’t this a good reason to allow the current tax rate to be reduced to 3.5%?”

    Why? Low-income people receive back most of their state taxes in refunds.

  30. - Anon. - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 4:21 pm:

    == vote for Rauner if you want a tax increase ==

    Reminds me of the old complaint, “They told me that if I voted for Goldwater, within 2 years there would be a half million of our boys in Vietnam. Well, I voted for him, and they were right.”

    To the question –

    To a proponent: Go stand in that corner and leave me alone.

    To an opponent: See that guy in the corner? Go talk to him and leave me alone.

  31. - Empty Suit - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 4:32 pm:

    Stop drop and roll

  32. - john doe - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 5:13 pm:


  33. - Jeff Trigg - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 6:52 pm:

    4% & Wensicia, “Substantial, many, most” does not include all poor people, especially responsible, working, young people without kids. There’s no good excuse to tax the income of ANY poor people.

  34. - Excessively Rabid - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 6:56 pm:

    Now that this proposal is off the table, how about trying something that doesn’t require a constitutional amendment? As I keep saying, base the state income tax on federal taxable income. This will bypass all kinds of idiosyncratic (I would say stupid) things about the Illinois tax code. Yes we will all (all of us with significant income)pay a lot more in state income taxes. But it will be much more progressive and will raise the needed level of revenues at a rate of 3.75%. I mean needed as in fully fund the state’s pension contributions after the “reform” abomination is thrown out by the courts. And a lot of the money will still be coming from the pensioners, so that ought to make somebody happy. It leaves unresolved the issue of how much tax revenue in this state is lost to various forms of miscreance, which I think is what upsets many taxpayers every time revenue is discussed. I don’t have a silver bullet for that one.

  35. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Apr 30, 14 @ 8:12 pm:

    man jack it up and leave retired alone.

  36. - lbj - Thursday, May 1, 14 @ 6:57 am:

    Don’t let the amateurs at SEIU Health Care run the campaign.

  37. - amerigom - Friday, May 2, 14 @ 5:17 am:

    We are a consuming nation! As every other Nation.
    ALL; collect taxes! Cities are in the same catagory; they need money to operate, and it’s done by taxing. Why not use consumption, as the means?
    The State of Florida, operates and is funded by a tax on consumption! Very simple!

  38. - amerigom - Friday, May 2, 14 @ 5:21 am:

    P. S,; Have you heard of the Fair Tax?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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