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AARP poll: Taxing retirement income is a third rail

Thursday, Dec 17, 2015

* AARP IL commissioned a Precision Research poll of Illinoisans 50 and over. Click here to read it all. They’re not happy campers…

1. As you think about your finances, how anxious do you feel about having enough money to live comfortably through your retirement years? Are you… [READ EACH ANSWER CATEGORY]?

    N= 1000
    Very anxious 23.5%
    Somewhat anxious 33.8%
    Not very anxious 17.4%
    Not anxious at all 22.3%
    Not sure/ Don’t know [DO NOT READ] 2.0%
    Refused [DO NOT READ] 1.0%

2. Now, thinking about the state and local taxes you pay, not including federal taxes, how strongly do you agree or disagree that you get the services you need in return for the taxes you pay? Would you… [READ EACH ANSWER CATEGORY]?

    N= 1000
    Strongly agree 8.4%
    Somewhat agree 30.6%
    Somewhat disagree 21.7%
    Strongly disagree 35.0%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 3.8%
    Refused [DO NOT READ] 0.5%

3. How aware are you that the Illinois state government is now five months past its deadline to have a budget in place? Would you say you are… [READ EACH ANSWER CATEGORY]?

    N= 1000
    Very Aware 80.9%
    Somewhat aware 12.3%
    Not too aware 2.8%
    Not at all aware 3.4%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 0.4%
    Refused [DO NOT READ] 0.1%

4. I’m going to read you a list of issues. After I read each one, please tell me if you would describe that issue as a major problem, a minor problem, or not a problem at all in the State of Illinois. Do you think (INSERT ITEM) is a major problem, a minor problem, or not a problem at all? (RANDOMIZE ITEMS A-C)

a. Cuts in state funding for essential services that allow seniors to stay in their homes and communities as they age

    N= 1000
    Major problem 69.2%
    Minor problem 19.7%
    Not a problem at all 5.8%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 5.0%
    Refused (DO NOT READ) 0.2%

b. Lack of cooperation among Illinois elected officials

    N= 1000
    Major problem 87.2%
    Minor problem 7.4%
    Not a problem at all 2.6%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 2.8%
    Refused (DO NOT READ) 0.1%

c. The amount of state and local taxes residents have to pay

    N= 1000
    Major problem 66.3%
    Minor problem 24.2%
    Not a problem at all 7.3%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 2.0%
    Refused (DO NOT READ) 0.3%

They are worried about state cuts, but they also don’t want higher state taxes.

* And they really, really, REALLY don’t want legislators to tax their retirement income

Thinking ahead to your retirement, if your retirement income were to be taxed, how much of an impact would that have on your ability to prepare for a secure retirement? Would you say it would be a [READ EACH ANSWER CATEGORY]

    N= 457
    Major impact 71.6%
    Minor impact 21.2%
    No impact 4.4%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 2.7%
    Refused (DO NOT READ) -

16. If lawmakers decide to tax retirement income, would you consider [READ EACH ANSWER CATEGORY] (RANDOMIZE ITEMS A-F)

    N= 902
    A. Moving to another state where there are tax friendly laws for retirees 59.6%
    B. Moving to another location in Illinois 21.1%
    C. Returning to the workforce 33.0%
    D. Reducing your household spending 69.2%
    E. Reducing spending on services such as hair salons, or lawn services 53.2%
    F. Something else (specify) _____________________________ 12.6%

Would you be more or less likely to vote for a candidate who supports the following? Would you be…[READ EACH ANSWER CATEGORY]? (RANDOMIZE ITEMS A-E)

a. Taxing retirement income

    N= 1000
    More likely 6.5%
    Less likely 84.3%
    Would not make a difference 6.8%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 2.3%
    Refused (DO NOT READ) 0.2%

b. Increasing individual income taxes

    N= 1000
    More likely 10.5%
    Less likely 74.2%
    Would not make a difference 11.9%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 2.9%
    Refused (DO NOT READ) 0.5%

c. Taxing services that are not currently taxed such as salons or lawn service

    N= 1000
    More likely 17.9%
    Less likely 52.7%
    Would not make a difference 24.9%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 4.3%
    Refused (DO NOT READ) 0.2%

d. Increasing corporate taxes

    N= 1000
    More likely 41.0%
    Less likely 36.7%
    Would not make a difference 16.3%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 5.6%
    Refused (DO NOT READ) 0.3%

e. Increasing property taxes

    N= 1000
    More likely 5.8%
    Less likely 83.6%
    Would not make a difference 8.3%
    Not sure (DO NOT READ) 2.1%
    Refused (DO NOT READ) 0.2%

Emphasis added for obvious reasons.

You get anywhere near 80 percent and the issue is guaranteed to move votes.

And now you know why one of newly appointed Democratic state Rep. Andrew Skoog’s first acts after being sworn in was signing on as a co-sponsor of Rep. Dave McSweeney’s anti retirement tax resolution.

…Adding… Right on cue comes the press release from a Tier 1 Senate target…

State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) filed Senate Resolution 1325 today to stand up against taxing the retirement income of Illinois’ retirees.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

108 Comments
  1. - AlabamaShake - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 11:58 am:

    Maybe AARP should actually do some advocacy among their members about WHY we need more revenue.

    AARP has been completely disingenuous - they want to protect “essential services” while refusing to support a tax increase.

    You can’t do both.


  2. - burbanite - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:00 pm:

    While initially it seems easy to say we should tax retiree income, the biggest complaint I hear from retirees is the huge amount of property taxes that they pay for the schools they don’t use.


  3. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:01 pm:

    === pay for the schools they don’t use. ===

    Meh. I don’t “use” a fighter plane, but I help pay for it, too.

    We all benefit from school funding.


  4. - Not Rich - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:09 pm:

    Everyone wants to go to heaven..nobody wants to die


  5. - Original Rambler - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:09 pm:

    I’d rather see a poll which started with the assumption that new revenue is needed, then have the respondents put in rank order the various ways they would prefer the revenue to be raised. That would be more relevant to our present situation. These polls which just ask isolated questions about whether they favor a particular way to raise revenue will ALWAYS generate this result.


  6. - burbanite - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:10 pm:

    I don’t disagree Rich, but a lot of seniors complain about it. I also think good schools increase the value of your property.


  7. - wordslinger - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:14 pm:

    Seniors make every politician plotz. They vote.


  8. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:14 pm:

    No surprises here.

    Our pols should have considered that before borrowing, spending and shorting pension payments to the point of ruining Illinois’ finances. Now it’s time to pay the piper.

    As Democrats raise sales and property taxes in Chicago and Cook County, as well as support another increase of the income tax on the rest of us, they must be reminded of this untapped pool of revenue who can “share” the pain with the rest of us. Political cowardice is what created the situation we are in today.


  9. - MOON - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:15 pm:

    Nothing surprising here.

    Move on.


  10. - AFSCME Steward - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:15 pm:

    I am retiring at the end of the year. My wife & I are staying in Illinois solely because there are no taxes on retirement. If that changes then we will be moving to Wisconsin or Michigan, which would have been our first preference if taxation was not an issue.


  11. - Johnny Pyle Driver - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:16 pm:

    I want everything to be fair, but it’s hard for me to ignore the fact that pols have been bending over backwards for this demographic for decades. As a younger, active voter, I don’t want to screw over my elders, but I also don’t want to be left holding the bill for every single thing they’ve done for the last 40 years. Lord knows part of my pension contribution goes directly to funding benefits that are higher than anything I’ll EVER sniff


  12. - a drop in - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:17 pm:

    So us seniors want services but don’t want to pay for it. Why should we be different than anyone else, especially when the politicians say we can?


  13. - Skewed Vision - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:18 pm:

    What an absolutely shocking result.

    It would have been more helpful if AARP had asked this: Do you support taxing retirement income above $50,000 and not levying any tax at all on retirement income of less than $50,000? That is, after all, the way it would likely play out. But AARP probably would not have gotten the answer it wanted, and so the pollster dangled a red herring that would never happen in the real world.

    Nice going. I’ll remember this when my income taxes get jacked–again–while rich people who don’t work pay nothing at all.


  14. - NixonHead - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:22 pm:

    What pollster has ever polled a group of people who WANT to be taxed more? If anything, AARP members consume more services than non-AARP members.


  15. - Jocko - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:26 pm:

    With the passing of “The Greatest Generation” comes the “I got mine!” generation.


  16. - Ron Oglesby - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:27 pm:

    “Why should we be different than anyone else, especially when the politicians say we can? ”

    Bingo. its easy to say “I want this” and “tax someone else” and the politicians Illinois has are more than willing to say YES! to both… as long as that group votes for them.


  17. - ZC - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:27 pm:

    Retiree: “Yeah, I kinda feel bad about how we have massive cutbacks and inequalities in our K-12 education, and now we’re starting to cannibalize our higher education, and our roads and infrastructure kind of stink … but … Well, the kids are hearty. They’ll do fine. Spoiled whippersnappers, some hardship will do them good. And don’t forget about all that ‘waste!’ We just need to cut the waste, and we’ll all have more than enough.”

    Q: “You are, of course, aware, that the only way the state of Illinois can manage to -deliver- on all of those retirement and pension promises, is if it has a well-educated, and thus high-income future young workforce that it can tax the dickens out of? That money won’t print itself. And at some hypothetical stress point, if you want to bring up the eternal “I’m leaving” threat, the -kids- have a lot fewer impediments to mobility, too. They can and will depart the state for more family-friendly climes. And then the state of Illinois can’t mail you your retirement checks, either, without a continuing local tax base to draw upon.”

    Retiree: “Um …”


  18. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:29 pm:

    Maybe they should have had another option:
    f. “Leaving taxes and services where they are, and borrowing money to make up the difference for the next generation to pay back.”


  19. - Cassandra - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:30 pm:

    So, if you are a politician who really, really wants to keep his/her job (that’s nearly all of them I believe) what do you do. Annoy the seniors, who famously vote at higher rates. Tax the rich more? The rich contribute cash-lots of cash in some cases. Or take the easy route and hike taxes in such a way that Mr. and Mrs. Working and MIddle Classes feel the pain. If the latter want to keep their taxes down, they will need to become a lot more vocal and organized. Because this tax increase we’re reportedly heading for is heading right for them.
    For politicians, it’s the easy button.


  20. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:32 pm:

    If retirees have saved for retirement responsibly, why would they stay in Illinois and be taxed on it? Many who can afford it will move if Illinois taxes retirement income, and that will lower the tax base, so those who stay, will pay more!


  21. - Hit or Miss - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:36 pm:

    Nothing surprising that people want more services and lower taxes at the same time.

    AARP also needs to educate its members a bit more. They should point out that a tax increase or a service cut is needed to pay for pensions for past services rendered. AARP members need to understand that they or their children have received the services and that the public workers now want to receive the pensions due for providing those services.


  22. - wordslinger - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:39 pm:

    –Many who can afford it will move if Illinois taxes retirement income, and that will lower the tax base, so those who stay, will pay more!–

    Show your work, professor.

    If they’re not paying taxes now, how would them leaving lower the tax base?

    Obviously, taxing retirement would be a net revenue gain, as not every retiree would leave.

    I’m thinking that if you are already retired and can afford to establish residency in Florida or Arizona for tax purposes, you’ve already done so.


  23. - Mouthy - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:40 pm:

    I think it’s clear. Don’t try and tax retirement income or else. I’m with that group.


  24. - Cassandra - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:41 pm:

    Better check the tax rates in those other states before you go. Flat or progressive? And the estate taxes. Do they tax Social Security? And so on.


  25. - Quizzical - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:42 pm:

    A great illustration of how we got to this point. Nobody wants to pay higher taxes, and some people really really don’t want to pay higher taxes. So politicians begged, borrowed and used accounting tricks, just like their constituents demanded.


  26. - Johnny Pyle Driver - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:43 pm:

    Do the “don’t tax retirement income or I’m leaving ” crowd think that young people or middle class people couldn’t do the same thing if they’re left holding the bag for all the states’ problems?


  27. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:44 pm:

    The Supremes ruled you cannot diminish benefits, but you can tax them? That is diminishment but of a different sort? If they are saying there is no way, no how you can diminish (current?) retires, then why the question by AARP? Please clarify for this dim mind


  28. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:48 pm:

    I agree, no surprises here.

    Such a strong aversion to raising revenue is a big reason why we’re in our fiscal disaster. When some say we should be like Wisconsin and Iowa, they omitted meaning we should raise our income tax.

    Heck, we should be like Kentucky and Missouri, when it comes to the state income tax rate.

    “they pay for the schools they don’t use”

    Let’s remember this next time someone screams that we’re a Christian nation.


  29. - Steve - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:56 pm:

    This is an important and difficult issue. How do you tax the rich retiree in the Gold Coast who declares Florida as his residence?


  30. - A Jack - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:56 pm:

    First, amend the Illinois Constitution for graduated taxes.

    Then if more income is needed, tax retirement benefits. But taxing retirement benefits at a flat tax rate is unfair to seniors living on social security and a small or no pension.


  31. - Anon221 - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:56 pm:

    On the property tax question-

    So, if you as a senior, voted for Rauner because he was going to freeze property taxes and other TARry bits, you shouldn’t be surprised that the “local control” is going to be scrambling to RAISE their control of local taxes to make up the difference. How’s that workin’ out???

    http://dewittdailynews.com/news/details.cfm?clientid=22&id=199650#.VnMFOHLouic


  32. - Arizona Bob - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 12:58 pm:

    @ZC

    =You are, of course, aware, that the only way the state of Illinois can manage to -deliver- on all of those retirement and pension promises, is if it has a well-educated, and thus high-income future young workforce that it can tax the dickens out of?=

    The problem is that in the current toxic business expansion and start up environment created by Blago, Quinn and Madigan, Al that spending won’t be able to keep the “high earners” here. The “best and the brightest” are leaving after a highly subsidized education from Illinois taxpayers. Large percentages of UIUC grads, for example, are going to Texas, Silicon Valley, and Florida.

    For example, my Chicago neighbor had three kids go to UIUC for computer engineering and chemical engineering. One went to Silicon Valley,obne went to Houston for Exxon, and the other is likely to go to San Jose. These were kids who had ACTs from 32 to 36 (perfect score). Our local school taxpayers spent about $150,000 each in 2015 dollars to educate them K-12, and probably another $40,000 each in taxpayer subsidies at UIUC.

    Total cost to taxpayers? $570,000 for the three.

    Amount of tax dollar ROI? ZERO!

    The fact is that you can spend like crazy educating the kids to their highest potential, but if you don’t create a business environment that’ll keep ‘em in Illinois, the “investment” is a bust.

    I believe this is the point that Rauner is trying to make, but Madigan and Dems couldn’t care less as long as they’re patronage army and crony contractors are filling their pockets.

    CPS now spends about $15,120 per year per student, take that through 12 years of education and that’s over $181,000 per student, yet those who actually graduate have about half their number functionally illiterate, and only about 25% are in any way ready for ANY field of college work.

    If someone looks at this from an “investment” perspective, it would be time to dump that turkey and perhaps provide less expensive vouchers with perhaps better returns.

    I agree with other commenters that the “Greatest Generation” is pretty much gone now, and the largely parasitic seniors and mostly what are left in Illinois.

    From a “fairness” perspective, why should someone who no longer has young children to support and no longer works pay no taxes on income, while a struggling young family does? It stinks.


  33. - Skewed Vision - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:02 pm:

    “If Bush/Reagan/Obama/Clinton/Trump gets elected, I’m moving to Canada!” They never do.

    Get real. No one is going to move out of Illinois if the state institutes a reasonable tax on retirement income. Along the same lines, no one is going to quit hiring lawyers/mechanics/accountants/etc. if the state starts taxing services, like just about every other state in the nation. Taxes on sales and property are way too high, and the reason they’re high is the state’s refusal to grow up and start levying taxes fairly so that everyone shares the burden that is now inordinately on middle class homeowners. It’s unconscionable, really.


  34. - Cheryl44 - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:02 pm:

    I would rather not have the retirement money that I’ve already paid taxes on be taxed. The stuff I’ve put away in my 403b–I don’t really have a solid reason to think that shouldn’t be taxed.

    I’m not retired yet, but I’m getting there. and I’ve never had kids, but I still use the schools. I want kids to graduate and get good jobs and pay their fair share also.


  35. - Skewed Vision - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:04 pm:

    ==But taxing retirement benefits at a flat tax rate is unfair to seniors living on social security and a small or no pension.==

    Red herring. No one is talking about taxing seniors who take in less than $50,000 a year.


  36. - Steve - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:05 pm:

    Illinois will really begin to feel the pressure if Wisconsin or Indiana become a no income tax state.


  37. - anon - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:06 pm:

    Keep in mind the retired population is not just former government employees but a huge number of others receiving private pensions or withdrawals from 401k and IRA plans. These people don’t want to take the hit.


  38. - Norseman - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:08 pm:

    Another reason to accept Rich’s analysis that taxes will not be a part of an FY 16 budget agreement.


  39. - Mittuns - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:08 pm:

    These are the people who benefitted greatly from years of spending without adequate and equitable revenues. They need to share in the pain of paying for their excesses that was resulted in the budget problems and crumbling infrastructure we see today.


  40. - Anon - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:11 pm:

    === They’re not happy campers…===

    Yes. They’re currently happy freeloaders living in a state that’s saddled with debt from providing them services that they didn’t completely pay for over the last 4 decades.

    ===A. Moving to another state where there are tax friendly laws for retirees 59.6%===

    These are empty words — If Rich would like I can forward him a study from Wisconsin on this topic that demonstrated that retirement income tax preference has little or no impact on moving between states when the population as a whole is taken.

    When you actually think about this question — how many of you would go through the entire process of selling your home, finding a new home, and moving for less than a 5% raise in your income?

    ===Less likely 83.6%===

    I’m pretty sure we already know that the state’s retirees don’t want to vote for folks who raises taxes, that’s why there’s tens of billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities, a structural budget gap, and our vendors go out of business waiting for payment for their services.

    So, maybe it’s time for someone to take responsibility for the fiscal affairs of the state and ignore the folks that demand services without wanting to pay for them.


  41. - Ducky LaMoore - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:13 pm:

    ===If that changes then we will be moving to Wisconsin…===

    Do you know what happens when somebody moves from Illinois to Wisconsin…?

    Average IQ goes up in both places. Haha. Seriously, having been to Wisconsin hundreds of times, I have no idea why anyone would want to live there.


  42. - Anon - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:13 pm:

    ===The “best and the brightest” are leaving after a highly subsidized education from Illinois taxpayers.===

    The best and brightest from others states often find their way to Chicagoland.


  43. - JoanP - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:13 pm:

    Bear in mind that many of those seniors who oppose taxing retirement income do so because they factored that non-taxation into their retirement planning. Had they expected their retirement income to be taxed, they may well have worked longer, made different investment decisions, etc.


  44. - Anon - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:14 pm:

    ===Seriously, having been to Wisconsin hundreds of times, I have no idea why anyone would want to live there.===

    Wisconsin also taxes retirement income, so… North Dakota here we come!


  45. - Harry - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:21 pm:

    “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax him, yonder, behind the tree.”

    So AARP members don’t want to pay more tax. They are better with other people paying more tax.

    This is not news.


  46. - illinoisan - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:21 pm:

    What was loud and clear in the comments is that no one wants to pay taxes and is willing to throw the “others” under the bus in righteous indignation. Why should I have to pay higher taxes because I am … while “they” are living off the fat of the land because of my (past or current) hard work. Simple, we have all benefited by receiving services at a reduced amount - ever since the “read my lips” revolt.


  47. - AnonymousOne - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:22 pm:

    ==keep in mind the retired population is not just government employees but a huge number of others===

    Don’t know numbers but I would think those ” numbers of others” is far larger than the number of government retirees. If retirement income is taxed, it would have to include all forms of retirement income. But I have to wonder who those who favor taxing retirement income are thinking of when they think of retirees. There are lots of retirees who are not able to work anymore–not unwilling to work, mind you–but not able(even IF employers were willing to pass on those 20 and 30 year olds in order to give the job to a 60 or 70 year old, ha!—-preferential hiring to retirees?) To tax their retirement income with no way to compensate for this unplanned loss is vindictive. Some would have undoubtedly worked longer and planned differently if they knew they wouldn’t have as much to live on.


  48. - Skewed Vision - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:27 pm:

    ==Bear in mind that many of those seniors who oppose taxing retirement income do so because they factored that non-taxation into their retirement planning. Had they expected their retirement income to be taxed, they may well have worked longer, made different investment decisions, etc.==

    My heart bleeds. Stuff happens. A 3-percent tax on retirement income in excess of 50 grand isn’t going to put anyone on the streets. How anyone can support not taxing retirement income for folks who are drawing pensions, plus drawing paychecks from second careers launched after “retirement” so that their incomes are well into the six figures, is beyond me. I would love hearing someone here try defending that. Go ahead, try. Let’s hear the case for continued free rides for retirees with high five-figure or six-figure incomes. And no fair saying it would be hard on people forced to live on Social Security, because those folks wouldn’t pay a dime under the exemption scenarios that have been discussed by responsible policy wonks who are interested in truth, not causing panic.

    There are no guarantees in life. And I would much rather have rich retirees leave than working folks who can’t afford the disproportionate tax burden they are now forced to carry.


  49. - Downstate - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:28 pm:

    In the same way that retirees will move if we start taxing their pensions, the same is true of the wealthy.

    Each incremental increase in income taxes (particularly a graduated one) only increases the outflow of citizens.


  50. - Federalist - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:29 pm:

    An obsession by some to tax retirement income when some $8.9 billion dollars are ‘lost’ ( this figures includes retirement income) because of many, many other tax exemptions.

    Can anyone explain why taxing retirement incomes keeps coming up again and again and again yet these other exemptions are rarely if ever mentioned?


  51. - Railrat - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:30 pm:

    I think only Fla. Nev. Tenn. Wash. (state) Tex. & Wyo.do NOT tax pension income


  52. - Anon - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:31 pm:

    ===Bear in mind that many of those seniors who oppose taxing retirement income do so because they factored that non-taxation into their retirement planning. Had they expected their retirement income to be taxed, they may well have worked longer, made different investment decisions, etc===

    So, this isn’t really an accurate statement. Retirement income is taxed federally. Certain kinds of retirement income for folks at certain income levels are excluded from the AGI.

    Illinois bases their income tax on the federal AGI. Low income pensioners and social security recipients already have a zero AGI. Folks that are near low income have very low AGIs that can be nullified by simple things like the exemption, property tax subtraction, and so forth.

    If this is your major concern, you could make the 65 and older exemption an extra $10,000 to limit the burden on low income retirees, or you could cap the subtraction for married filing separate and married filing joint.

    What I don’t think you’ve realized is there are people who receive hundreds of thousands of dollars, and even millions of dollars, each year that is classified as retirement income and these people pay no taxes to the State of Illinois.

    This subtraction does absolutely nothing to help low income seniors because their AGI is already zero. The majority of this benefit goes to households with incomes exceeding the state’s average income. =-(

    There are better ways to help low income seniors — and the State of Illinois owes billions of dollars. From Fiscal Year 1993 to Fiscal Year 2013 this cost $20.5 billion dollars in 2013 dollars.

    How big is our backlog?


  53. - Johnnie F. - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:33 pm:

    I want my cake….I want to eat it too…and I want wage stagnant lower middle class two paycheck earning gen-xers to pay for it all.


  54. - wordslinger - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:41 pm:

    –Each incremental increase in income taxes (particularly a graduated one) only increases the outflow of citizens.–

    Yeah, Beverly Hills, Silicon Valley and Manhattan are ghost towns.


  55. - Lisa C - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:41 pm:

    PA does not tax retirement income.


  56. - Just Me - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:45 pm:

    We have a family friend who retired at age 53, and now collects a pension from his former employer. Every year at our family’s Christmas party he corners me to talk about three topics, in this order (1) The Democrats from Chicago are ruining this state, we should sucede, (2) The government pensions in this state are outrageous, we should pass a Constitutional amendment canceling them, and (3) If they move to tax my “retirement” income I’m moving to Arizona.

    I’ve tried to point out the irony of points #2 and #3, but his response is he worked hard for 25 years and deserves his tax-exempt pension!


  57. - South Central - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:48 pm:

    Apparently, being over 50 and having all that life experience doesn’t necessarily result in people becoming
    less selfish and realizing there is no such thing as a free lunch. Yes, there are retirees who can afford to pay taxes on their pensions. And no, they will not move out of state because of it. I’ll consider myself lucky if I make enough in retirement to be taxed.


  58. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:49 pm:

    A meager 1-2% on incomes over $50,000 wouldn’t be felt by anyone screaming over a retirement income tax. These numbers reflect the concept of taxation, but the generation that has no problems paying for imported cars, wines, condos near the beach, dropping money on Viagra and living in Arizona, are just being selfish ungrateful boors.


  59. - Steve - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:50 pm:

    To - wordslinger -

    Illinois doesn’t have the Beverly Hills weather or Silicon Valley weather. We also don’t have the rent control of Manhattan. But, that doesn’t mean Mike Madigan will not give it a try. Who wants 9.3% income tax rate on those making over $51,000 a year like they do in California?


  60. - Juice - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:51 pm:

    JoanP, if you look at the full poll results, a huge portion of those polled didn’t even know that retirement income is exempt from Illinois income taxation.

    And a huge majority of those pulled also believe they pay too much in income taxes to the State (even though many of them pay $0). So I really doubt that there were too many tax considerations going into their retirement planning.


  61. - Skewed Vision - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:54 pm:

    Neither Nevada nor Washington have any income taxes, and so retirement income isn’t taxed. Not sure about the other states.

    Those who want to see retirement income taxed aren’t obsessed. They’re sick of paying more than they should because retirees don’t pay their fair share. Other exemptions do get mentioned, and often. Taxing retirement income isn’t the answer, but it is part of the answer, and an important part. The state also needs to reduce spending. We also need to eliminate corporate giveaways and do some other things. But the hole we’ve dug is so deep that it would be irresponsible to ignore the $40 billion or so in retirement income taken in by folks who make more than $50,000 in retirement income and pay absolutely nothing. At a 3 percent rate, that’s $1.2 billion a year in revenue, with low and middle class retirees still paying nothing at all.

    Again, the state needs to cut spending. But we also have to raise revenue. It’s a matter of math.


  62. - Skewed Vision - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 1:55 pm:

    ==Who wants 9.3% income tax rate on those making over $51,000 a year like they do in California?==

    Red herring. No one is talking about a 9.3 percent tax rate in Illinois, or anything close.


  63. - AnonymousOne - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 2:07 pm:

    Skewed

    I have to wonder why you aren’t in favor of higher taxation via eliminating tax deductions/loopholes on very high income earners. How are those folks off the hook? When the bank robber was asked why he robbed banks, he answered—-you have to go where the money is! Over 50K old folks are the rich folks?


  64. - john doe - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 2:07 pm:

    Alaska doesn’t have a state income tax, but they are considering it.


  65. - john doe - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 2:09 pm:

    South Dakota also doesn’t have a state income tax.


  66. - Analyst - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 2:10 pm:

    It would be “special taxation”. If the general revenues are to be used by everyone generally, why would only one part of the population be the first responder? Why are retirees the primary target?


  67. - Federalist - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 2:14 pm:

    @Skewed Vision

    “Other exemptions do get mentioned, and often.”

    Which ones and by whom? What are their ‘costs’? And which ones are not mentioned and why?


  68. - sideline watcher - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 2:18 pm:

    “My heart bleeds. Stuff happens. A 3-percent tax on retirement income in excess of 50 grand isn’t going to put anyone on the streets. How anyone can support not taxing retirement income for folks who are drawing pensions, plus drawing paychecks from second careers launched after “retirement” so that their incomes are well into the six figures, is beyond me. I would love hearing someone here try defending that. Go ahead, try. Let’s hear the case for continued free rides for retirees with high five-figure or six-figure incomes. And no fair saying it would be hard on people forced to live on Social Security, because those folks wouldn’t pay a dime under the exemption scenarios that have been discussed by responsible policy wonks who are interested in truth, not causing panic.”

    Yes. More please.

    And for the record…only Illinois, Florida, and Pennsylvania don’t take retirement income.

    so these people think that if you are living on social security and that’s all you have…and you go out and get a job to support the fact that you can’t live on just social security….that person pays tax on everything they make in that second job.

    But the guy that Governor Rauner pointed out to demonize pensions who retired on a sweet $450,000 per year pension gets to not pay a dime???

    That’s fair? Give me a big fat break.


  69. - Federalist - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 2:23 pm:

    Let’s get this straight! If you pay any significant amount of state income tax (for hypothetical purposes I will put that at $3,000 or more)and you pay significant property taxes (again I will put this at $5,000 or more)there is a very good reason to leave Illinois for places like Texas, Florida, or Tennessee.

    For those on SS only very ,very good reasons. For those whose pensions come from the state while they would still have to pay tax on that pension income, other state income tax would be avoided so that state would not get that. An added plus is that property taxes have a tendency to be much lower in such states.

    What part of this can some not figure out. My guess is those who resent state employee pensions and/or pay very little state income tax or property taxes in the first place.


  70. - Formerly Known As... - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 2:27 pm:

    ==Get real. No one is going to move out of Illinois if the state institutes a reasonable tax on retirement income.==

    Respectfully, it might be the last straw for some.

    Retirees have a fairly fixed income. With higher costs of living and insufficient COLAs plus higher prop taxes and other taxes, they can quickly be priced out of the state now that their best earning years are done.

    Combine with service reductions as Illinois finally gets its $ in order, and the Florida sun starts looking better every year lol.

    Not taxing retirement income is one of the benefits to living in Illinois instead of moving somewhere warmer after working and paying taxes here for your adult life. Taking that away does not help keep them here.


  71. - RNUG - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 2:34 pm:

    Time to point out a couple of things.

    1) The diminishment clause would most likely not apply if all pensions / retirement income is taxed more or less “equally”.

    2) The income tax rate for whatever amount that is not exempted will have to be the same rate, currently 3.75%, that everyone else pays or you will be violating the flat tax provision. Even if it is the same, I see a possible challenge over the high exemption level of, say, $30,000 or $50,000 on the grounds such an exemption level effectively circumvents the flat tax provision. Note: same argument would apply to the proposed Millionaires Tax.

    3) Under the current rules, yes, retirees pay no income tax but they pay plenty of others taxes. Someone was bemoaning the retirees buying nice cars; they paid a pretty good sales tax on that car, especially if they live where a local sales tax is also imposed. Same for most a trying else they buy. And we can argue the fairness of it because there are some exemptions and freezes, but retirees also pay quite a bit of property tax.


  72. - Facts are Stubborn Things - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 2:34 pm:

    AARP is advocating for their members. You join AARP to at least partly have your voice heard on retirement issues. I am retired, and of course I don’t want to pay taxes on my retirement income and I will urge my legislatures to support that position. Others will understandably take a different position, and that my friends is how a republic works.


  73. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 2:35 pm:

    My decision rests on weather the Illinois taxes any retirement income. I already have the house in Florida. A simple matter to change residency, and sell the Illinois house! Illinois will keep increasing spending and taxing. Taxing retirement income will be what finally pushes me to leave!


  74. - RNUG - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 2:40 pm:

    -Federalist-,

    If they move out of state, even state / local government retirees will not be taxed by Illinois on their pensions.


  75. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 2:40 pm:

    Federalist, you do not pay Illinois income tax on a pension from Illinois, if you are a resident of another state. This is federal law. Another reason people will leave Illinois, if retirement income is taxed.


  76. - Filmmaker Professor - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 2:46 pm:

    Another shock: people want more services and want to pay less. And water is still wet.


  77. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 3:05 pm:

    I just learned something new, that California raised taxes, including the income tax on the highest incomes, via ballot measure, Proposition 30. It was on the 2012 ballot. The counties voting for the measure went for Obama in the 2012 election.

    That obviously can’t happen in Illinois, but the voters strongly supported the millionaire surcharge. I did a quick search for a county vote breakdown for the millionaire surcharge but could not find it. I was wonderin’ where these fiscal leftists came from.


  78. - RNUG - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 3:10 pm:

    As long as Illinois has the flat tax provision in the Constitution, the Millionaires Tax might be popular but it will probably be found illegal if enacted.


  79. - Mittuns - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 3:22 pm:

    How much would 3-5% on retirement income above $50k generate? A few hundred million? It has to be part of a broader solution.

    Also, for the hysteria surrounding a 9.3% tax rate in California, what matters is the effective tax rate. A household making $54,000 in Illinois (effective rate: 3.75%) pays about $280 less than than one in California (effective rate: ~4.27%)


  80. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 3:23 pm:

    One of the benefits of taxing IL retirement income will apparently be the glut of housing on the market that will probably be available dirt cheap due to the law of supply and demand. It might be a million units from what I am surmising here. /s


  81. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 3:33 pm:

    In talking to people who have retired to Florida and Nevada they say the warm winters are nice. The summers hot, and are times to visit the kids up North. Their real reason for moving was the high cost of living in Illinois. Property taxes and other taxes being the reason they left.


  82. - Blue dog dem - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 3:36 pm:

    aFSCME Steward…. We’re you a public servant in Illinois?if so, I find your promise (threat) of moving out of state appalling.


  83. - Anon - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 3:40 pm:

    AFSCME Steward and Anonymous,
    You’ve convinced me. Let’s tax retirement income!

    Skewed Vision,
    Nice.


  84. - Last Bull Moose - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 4:01 pm:

    My State Senator discussed taxing retirement income at a town meeting. He opposed it, in part because his retired father would simply spend another month each year in Florida and switch tax residency.

    Some people would move. The question is whether the loss of whatever income tax they pay on other income, sales tax revenues lost, and property taxes lost exceeds the revenue gained.

    I suspect there would be a net gain in revenue, but I am not sure how much would be raised.


  85. - Federalist - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 4:06 pm:

    @RNUG and Anonymous,

    thank you so much for your clarification on the taxation of Illinois pensions. I thought that even if you moved to a state where there was no income tax that you would have to pay state income tax on pensions paid by the State.

    That is the clincher! Illinois will really have to build new highways connecting Florida and Texas
    as retirees leave the state.


  86. - Streator Curmudgeon - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 4:27 pm:

    As an AARP member, let me dispel the misconception that all retirees are rich. Many get by on little more than Social Security.

    Only when you retire and live on a fixed income can you understand what it’s like.


  87. - Norseman - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 4:30 pm:

    === On Jan. 10, 1996, Congress enacted the Pension Source Tax Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-94). This law specifically stipulates that, “No State may impose an income tax on any retirement income of an individual who is not a resident or domiciliary of such State.” ===

    Thanks Anonymous for helping me narrow my search for verification of tax liability. I found the above from a tax article. I had been searching IL tax info.


  88. - Anon - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 4:33 pm:

    Blue dog,
    Some say appalling, and some say appealing.


  89. - Skewed Vision - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 4:44 pm:

    ==I have to wonder why you aren’t in favor of higher taxation via eliminating tax deductions/loopholes on very high income earners. How are those folks off the hook? When the bank robber was asked why he robbed banks, he answered—-you have to go where the money is! Over 50K old folks are the rich folks?==

    Absolutely, I’m in favor of eliminating tax loopholes on high income earners. I think a graduated income tax is also a good idea, but it can’t happen unless we change the constitution.

    As for exemptions, the first 50 grand wouldn’t be taxed, which I think is extremely generous and perhaps even politically possible. If I get 50 grand in retirement income, I pay no tax on it. If I get 60 grand in retirement income, I pay taxes on 10 grand, as the first 50 would be exempt. At a tax rate of 3.75 percent, someone with 60 grand in retirement income would pay $375. Is anyone going to move anywhere over $375? Not likely. Alternatively, we could raise the income tax again. Which would you rather do, jack taxes on working folks or start taxing a fraction of retirement income? Because, like it or not, the revenue is going to have to come from somewhere. We can’t cut our way out of this mess.

    You’d have to get make more than $75,000 a year before you’d crack the $1,000 mark in taxes paid. Again, who’s going to move over that much money?

    Now, you might well move due to total tax burden. Property taxes are crushing. So is the sales tax–it’s as high here as it is in states that don’t tax income. If you spread the burden over more people and industries (via a tax on services), you could, at least in theory, reduce the income tax percentage-wise, or at least not raise it. You’d also have a shot at reducing property taxes, which have gotten ridiculous.

    There really isn’t anything complicated about this. The fewer people who pay taxes, the more those people who do pay taxes must pay. At some point, services are going to have to be taxed, and so we might as well get started. Same thing with retirees. Youngsters simply won’t be able to afford to shoulder the burden as the baby boom retires.


  90. - Chris - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 4:53 pm:

    So the folks who have spent 30+ years benefitting from the under taxation in Illinois want to continue not paying enough?

    I’m shocked. Shocked!! To see such me-first-ism from the Me Generation.


  91. - DuPage - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 5:26 pm:

    @Chris 4:53 ==I’m shocked. Shocked!!==

    Probably not as shocked as Radogno will be if she

    steps on that third rail!


  92. - blue dog dem - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 5:38 pm:

    Anon–its the Christmas season. The word(s) I really want to use wouldnt be appropriate.


  93. - The Dude Abides - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 5:43 pm:

    As RNUG has mentioned and some others have mentioned before, the place to start in fixing our revenue problem is amending the constitution to a progressive state income tax. Once you decide to do that you need to educate the voting public on what they are voting for. If it was set up so that the majority of voters wouldn’t be paying more than they are now it might pass.


  94. - RNUG - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 6:07 pm:

    == If it was set up so that the majority of voters wouldn’t be paying more than they are now ==

    … and there have been proposals to do exactly that.

    The big fear, I think, is that once a progressive tax is in place, the GA could start messing with it and raise the rates or narrow the brackets. There are a several different ways to deal with that concern.

    One way would be to bake the rates into the constitution, which would make it a lot harder to change. Or you could limit the rate to being changed only once every 5 or 10 years unless approved by the voters. You could also limit the rate of increase in state revenue from the income tax to being less than x% in any given period of years without voter approval.

    Yes, I realize that kind of proposal limits the ability of the GA to respond to rapidly changing economic conditions or an emergency, but if that really concerns you, then allow an increase in excess of those specified by a 100% unanimous approval by all members of the GA. Yes, I realize I phrased it redundantly, but we are dealing with the Illinois GA that has to have things spelled out in black and white with no wiggle room. If it is a real emergency, then everyone should be on board for fixing it.


  95. - plutocra03 - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 6:54 pm:

    “how would them leaving lower the tax base?”

    the most basic economics…..

    Whatever spending they did would no longer circulate through the economy. That means everyone who previously sold goods or services to the departed retiree would have less profit to pat taxes on.


  96. - justacitizen - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 6:55 pm:

    The ‘rub’ that state retirees have is that there would not be any need to raise taxes if the state had properly funded the employer portion of the state’s pension systems. (since the underfunding is the primary problem with the states fiscal woes.)

    So, to solve the problem, the proposal to tax these pensions(plus all non-public pensions)rubs us the wrong way.


  97. - thechampaignlife - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 6:55 pm:

    But, if the income is taxed when it is earned (contributions, not withdrawals), how would they feel?


  98. - Will Guzzardi - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 7:04 pm:

    Not to be a walking stereotype of myself, but it’s worth noting that a plurality of these folks said they’d be *more* likely to vote for a candidate who supported raising corporate income taxes.

    As has been discussed previously, makes you wonder what they would have said about increasing taxes on millionaires or on retirement income only over a certain threshold.


  99. - Sue - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 7:14 pm:

    Spend any time in Florida and you run into folks who spend 6 months and one day in the sunshine state to avoid state income taxes from places like NY, NJ ,Conn, Ohio, and similar highly taxed Northern Blue States. Taxing retiree income will just be one more reason folks in Illinois who can afford to spend half the year out of State to join the ranks. The State needs revenue but it needs reform just as badly. Give the well to do a reason to relocate and it will happen


  100. - Cassandra - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 7:22 pm:

    I still think it’s the senior vote that concerns our pols, not the fear of their leaving the state. Seniors are a rising proportion of our population and they vote in comparatively high numbers. For any politician, that’s a group to keep on your side–or, at least, a group not to single out for a new tax.


  101. - DuPage Great Grandma - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 8:24 pm:

    Many wealthier retirees do pay state income tax on their stock portfolios not protected by a 401K or other means. The rest of retirement income will not be taxed in Illinois for some time. An attempt was made to do a couple of years ago and failed. Good to have the discussion, of course.


  102. - Robert the 1st - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 8:31 pm:

    =The ‘rub’ that state retirees have is that there would not be any need to raise taxes if the state had properly funded the employer portion of the state’s pension systems. (since the underfunding is the primary problem with the states fiscal woes.)=

    So you think you were taxed too low for your entire working career?

    =So, to solve the problem, the proposal to tax these pensions(plus all non-public pensions)rubs us the wrong way.=

    And now you refuse to pay anything more and the younger working class should be stuck financing you early and generous retirement you were under-taxed for?


  103. - AnonymousOne - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 9:02 pm:

    What a pompous and arrogant statement to say that anyone’s retirement is too early or too generous. What details do you know to make such a general statement?


  104. - Elementary - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 9:03 pm:

    It is a fact, if the State of Illinois taxes retirement income in any way, I would be in the 59.6% group moving to another State. I know plenty of other retirees who would be right behind me.


  105. - wordslinger - Thursday, Dec 17, 15 @ 9:45 pm:

    –“how would them leaving lower the tax base?”

    the most basic economics…..

    Whatever spending they did would no longer circulate through the economy. That means everyone who previously sold goods or services to the departed retiree would have less profit to pat taxes on.–

    If you’re suggesting there would be a net decrease in all taxes collected, you’ll have to show your work.

    As it was, I was only referring to the income tax.


  106. - TaxesBuyCivilization - Friday, Dec 18, 15 @ 12:15 am:

    Robert the 1st,

    ===So you think you were taxed too low for your entire working career?===

    You have hit the nail on the head and didn’t even mean to.

    DuPage Great Grandma,

    ===Many wealthier retirees do pay state income tax on their stock portfolios not protected by a 401K or other means.===

    The state’s subtraction for retirement income includes guaranteed payments to partners reported on K-1-Ps or K-1-Ts, the wealthy folks are smart enough to structure their retirement to take advantage of that.


  107. - Last Bull Moose - Friday, Dec 18, 15 @ 7:51 am:

    Wordslinger,

    You are too smart to think that looking at the income tax revenues alone is good analysis. You are right to want the full effect to be measured and for people to “show their work “. I doubt that an individual citizen can do that analysis. Only the government has access to some of the key data. Estimates could be made, though I think they would need to forecast a wide range of outcomes.

    I think the net effect would be an increase in revenue. Thatmay be biased bbecause I am not leaving.


  108. - Juvenal - Friday, Dec 18, 15 @ 8:35 am:

    RNUG: Madigan’s Millionaire Tax is a Constitutional amendment. Mischief managed.

    To the post: hypocritical, disingenuous and useless only begin to describe this poll.

    I’ll go with “dishonest.”

    Dishonest because the choice facing voters isn’t raise taxes or do nothing.

    Dishonest because no one is proposing taxing retirement income, only retirement income above a certain threshold.

    Those are extremely relevant facts that would have been included in an honest poll.

    But this wasn’t an honest poll, it was out in the field to bolster the AARP’s long-held opposition to taxing retirement income.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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* Pixel 2 Real Audio Review: Let’s talk about headphone dongles… (Video)

* Sox Century: After the World Series
* Podcast: 2017 White Sox Pitchers and Catchers season review
* Steep climbs ahead for oft-injured White Sox
* #AwardWorthy: Vote for Engel's glove
* Sporcle Saturday: Long bombs
* Petricka undergoes surgery on right elbow
* Avisail sees similarities in rebuild, stellar year


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