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A Kennedy/Biss retirement tax problem: Voters don’t do nuance

Monday, Mar 12, 2018

* As you already know, JB Pritzker is airing a TV ad which claims that Chris Kennedy and Sen. Daniel Biss support taxing retirement income, “one of the few things Illinois doesn’t tax right now. The ad goes on to claim that Pritzker is against doing such a thing.

So, Rick Pearson asked Chris Kennedy on his radio show yesterday morning about taxing retirement income

Chris Kennedy: I wouldn’t do that. The average retiree pension is like $18,000 a year. We’re going to go tax people making 18,000 a year? That’s the group we’re going to attack? I don’t think so. I don’t have the heart for that… There’s nothing about me that would lead me to believe that that’s the right thing to do. That’s not where the money is. Those people need that for their basic income and I think that’s a real bad suggestion and I’ve thought so since the beginning of the campaign, despite the lies that JB Pritzker is telling about me in his new ads…

Rick Pearson: I want you to address that issue.

Chris Kennedy: It’s interesting. I came from a family, we’re very competitive, the Kennedy family, particularly my mother who taught us this lesson: It’s better to win than to lose. But she also made it clear it’s better to lose than to cheat. And I think that’s a lesson that the Kennedy family learned that apparently they don’t teach in the Pritzker family. Because Pritzker, when he couldn’t spend his way to victory, that is, tell the truth about himself, he then had to pick an alternative course, which is to lie about others. And that’s what he’s doing now with his television ads and his radio ads. And it’s unfortunate that he’s in that desperate spot.

Going after the guy’s family now, eh? That’ll help.

…Adding… Pritzker’s campaign manager…


* The Pritzker ad in question references a January 26th WMAY interview with Kennedy

LEACH: If we move to a graduated income tax at some point would that be on the table then? Retirement income?

KENNEDY: I mean, I don’t know what that looks like. I mean, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts we’d all have a merry Christmas, so I don’t know, what…

LEACH: But you want to move to a progressive income tax?

KENNEDY: Absolutely, absolutely.

LEACH: If we do that, under your plan…

KENNEDY: If we means tested, if we means tested, um, retirement income. If you could say OK, people who have more than $250,000 a year household income and have retirement income, could that be part of progressive income tax? I think it could.

So, Kennedy said he’d consider a retirement income tax. The Pritzker ad is not a “lie.” And if Kennedy manages to win the primary, Rauner will undoubtedly blast him with the same sort of ad because 74 percent of Illinoisans oppose such a tax. It’s our state’s political “third rail.” And the same goes for Sen. Daniel Biss, who qualified his own support in a similar manner.

Wait, you say, 60 percent told the Simon poll folks that they’d go for taxing retirement income above $100,000.

But the problem for both Kennedy and Biss is that voters just don’t do nuance very well.

And it’s light-years worse when you’re being heavily outspent on TV and you can’t fight back in kind.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

29 Comments
  1. - Maximus - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 7:48 am:

    If you don’t tax retirement income then everyone who isn’t retired is going to feel a lot more pain. Pritzker’s plan must include raising the tax rate much higher than the plans offered by Kennedy or Biss.


  2. - wondering - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 7:55 am:

    His uncle was a philanderer, his grand father a boot legger, but Kenedys don’t cheat?


  3. - Red fish blue fish - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 7:56 am:

    I don’t know about that Rich. I think voters do understand nuance– especially in matters of integrity. There’s a reason Pritzker’s going negative. He can’t defeat Kennedy or Biss without it.


  4. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 7:57 am:

    –But she also made it clear it’s better to lose than to cheat.–

    Never heard that one before, in all of the accounts of the Kennedy family over the years.

    Any comment from the Humphrey family (WV)?

    Nixon family (combo of IL and TX)?

    Roosevelt family (FDR said “set a thief to catch a thief” when he made Grandpa Joe head of the SEC)?

    I’m not sure paragons of individual virtue has been one of the takeaways in the popular history of the Kennedy family.

    Maybe don’t go there, with the families.


  5. - Stand Tall - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 8:06 am:

    Won’t vote for Kennedy(or any of the Democrats) but in an honesty and ethics contest he should win hands down against Pritzker.


  6. - wondering - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 8:22 am:

    Maximus: Everyone? Do you understand “progressi ve”?


  7. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 8:36 am:

    Chris: the movie “Chappaquidic(?) is to be released soon. Let’s see how that works with the “integrity” thing.


  8. - Molly Maguire - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 8:50 am:

    While we’re talking retirement, can anyone in an non-partisan manner clarify for me whether/how the SB1 pension bill would have reduced benefits for existing retirees? Just reduced the COLA, but not cut their monthly check, right?


  9. - ZC - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 9:02 am:

    What we have watched here is a months-long multimillion dollar game of Whack-a-Mole by JB.


  10. - Arsenal - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 9:07 am:

    This is a pattern with Kennedy; say somethign wishy-washy, but mostly X; get whacked for it, say something wishy-washy but mostly Not X and say the whole thing was a lie. He did it on a progressive income tax, legalization, and now taxing retirement income.


  11. - Retired Educator - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 9:10 am:

    The Illinois Constitution says no diminishment. It does not say unless they come up with something. Any reduction even in COLAs is a diminishment. If you open the door for these folks, they will simply keep taking till there is nothing left. If you think this will only apply to state workers in the future, I have a bridge I want to sell. When they are done with state retirees, they will come after the private sector also.


  12. - Maximus - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 9:17 am:

    Wondering -
    A progressive income tax requires an amendment to the Illinois constitution. Taxing retirement income would not require a constitutional amendment so there is a big hurdle if JB relies on a progressive income tax change.


  13. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 9:30 am:

    You get on the wrong side of Anne Caprara on Twitter, “look out”. Whew.

    To the post,

    Kennedy wants that Kennedy name to be the mitigating factor, not “JB versus Chris”… but what is disappointing is that two families with strong history in this state, one need not tarnish one to elevate the other.

    It wasn’t an accident it was said as it was, exactly as it was intended.

    Bad form.


  14. - Arsenal - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 9:40 am:

    ==retirement income would not require a constitutional amendment==

    Yeah, it only requires legislators to vote for a bill that 74% of the state dislikes and soaks the absolute most reliable voters. No problem at all, there.


  15. - Norseman - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 9:48 am:

    CK continuously fails to impress. Thankfully it will be over soon.


  16. - ILDemVoter - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 9:58 am:

    Agree- voters don’t understand the nuance and at the end of the day, general public doesn’t understand that Illinois is one of the few states that doesn’t tax income and has led to our financial woes. With that said, as a “young person” (ie. under 40)…PLEASE TAX RETIREMENT!! Illinois needs that income and passing through the first $75,000 shouldn’t make this a problematic situation for retirees.


  17. - NoGifts - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 10:18 am:

    I also think retired people are old enough to know you have to pay your bills.


  18. - City Zen - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 10:21 am:

    == Illinois needs that income and passing through the first $75,000==

    Exemptions should be phased out over a certain amount and not be a flat pass through. For example, the first $40,000 in retirement income is not taxable, then for every $1 in retirement income above that, the exemption is reduced by $1. So the retiree w/ $80,000 pension pays full tax whereas the $40,000 pension pays nothing.


  19. - Retired Educator - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 10:53 am:

    People can come up with all the justification they want, and say we will only tax some after a certain point. That is all nonsense. If they get started at one level, they will always say just a little more won’t hurt. We the retired were made a promise. You can’t say the promise is no good because it shouldn’t have been made. I taught for over 35 years, now you want to say the deal I had should be adjusted. Theft is theft. If you change the rules now, you are simply stealing from those who worked their whole life to achieve their retirement. There is no justification for stealing money from the retired.


  20. - Rich Miller - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 10:54 am:

    ===I think voters do understand nuance===

    Were you asleep in 2016?


  21. - PublicServant - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 11:16 am:

    In addition, RE, when we were working, we were indirectly supporting those Illinois retirees who had retired before us. To say now that we aren’t able to take advantage of the exclusion for our retirement income is “tax double dipping”. I say after we get a progressive tax in place, we can consider taxing retirement income but CZ’s sliding scale ought to be based an the number of years worked under the retirement exemption in Illinois with those over 20 years completely excluded, and with those with less years worked increasingly included. I’m for leaving it the way it is now, but since we’re throwing around hypotheticals here, that’s my two cent’s, and that’s all I’m contributing from my retirement income.


  22. - Anon0091 - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 11:35 am:

    ” But she also made it clear it’s better to lose than to cheat.”

    Is that a joke or just self-delusion? Ummm, JFK by all reports stole the election from Nixon in Chicago with Daley’s help. And oh yea, he cheated on Jackie pretty much constantly. Oh, and Chappaquidick.

    So spare me your self-righteous nonsense Chris.


  23. - City Zen - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 11:57 am:

    ==after we get a progressive tax in place, we can consider taxing retirement income==

    Better yet, make each one dependent on the other. A truly progressive tax system includes all income anyway. No state with graduated taxes completely exempts retirement income. If the retirees are on board for progressive taxation for themselves, then I’m on board too.

    ==sliding scale ought to be based an the number of years worked==

    That would probably be a nightmare to manage. I started paying social security at age 16. Is that my official start date? Plus when Ken Griffin retires, he’ll pay no taxes, assuming he sticks around.

    I really don’t get RE’s argument anyway. If tax rates are considered a dimnishment and impairment as he implies, then I should be locked into the tax rate I started paying when I entered the workforce.

    Our scenarios are moot anyway as not one politician on either side will touch this with a 10 foot COLA.


  24. - Retired Educator - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 12:07 pm:

    City; The Illinois Constitution guarantees no diminishment for retirees. It does not say anything about when you or anyone else entered the workforce. It simply says once you have it, a diminishment can’t happen. I knew what I was working toward my entire career, They simply can’t say we lied and we are taking your money.


  25. - TKMH - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 12:11 pm:

    ==And I think that’s a lesson that the Kennedy family learned that apparently they don’t teach in the Pritzker family.==

    Both of JB’s parents passed away before he turned 18. For someone who stormed out of a forum because of Ives’ tasteless “father’s in the home” comment, this is hypocritical, to say the least.


  26. - Ron - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 12:22 pm:

    “When they are done with state retirees, they will come after the private sector also.”

    They are going after us right now with the massive tax increases to pay for our public sector workers.


  27. - Anon312 - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 1:17 pm:

    Taxing retirement income — so long as you carve out exemptions for retired persons earning less than, say, 100k/year — is a fantastic idea. If Pritzker was serious about fixing the state’s fiscal mess, he would be open to it.

    Weird attack ad for a guy who won’t even spell out his highest tax rate in a progressive structure. Kennedy did.


  28. - Skeptic - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 1:35 pm:

    Ron: So when did they start taxing private sector workers but not public sector workers?


  29. - City Zen - Monday, Mar 12, 18 @ 2:22 pm:

    ==so long as you carve out exemptions for retired persons earning less than, say, 100k/year==

    Crazy that so many folks here are in favor of such an exorbitant carve out. Taxes on the working stiff making $100k aren’t high enough, yet the retired guy with $100k pension gets a completely free ride. Unreal.

    No other state that taxes retirement income has such a large carve out. Not. one. And one of the most indebted states should? Sounds like something Kansas might do. I thought we wanted to be like Minnesota, the state with no exclusions for retirement income.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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