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Define “new”

Monday, Sep 28, 2020

* Tribune editorial

It looks like Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s warning that Illinois will have to cut spending if voters reject his “fair tax” amendment wasn’t persuading anyone. And why would it? After years of busted budgets, rising debts and tax increases, millions of Illinois voters want state government to stop spending so much.

So Team Pritzker on Thursday dispatched Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton to issue a new threat: Approve our amendment or, she said, “lawmakers will be forced to consider raising income taxes on all Illinois residents by at least 20% regardless of their level of income.” […]

We’ll see if Team Pritzker finds new ways to say, “Vote our way — or else.” But we hope nobody asks Lt. Gov. Stratton to be the one issuing future warnings. This was a message the governor should have delivered. This is his amendment, his campaign push, his threat to raise taxes on even the lowest of earners by a whopping 20%. How does the squeeze feel, Illinois?

* Ted Cox cranks up the Wayback Machine

Here’s the thing, though: Gov. Pritzker first warned of a potential 20 percent tax hike in his very first budget address, a month after taking office, in February 2019. In the very same speech, he spoke of “a fair income tax” as a solution. Two weeks later, he laid out his proposal for a progressive income tax, with brackets that have basically held true to that initial vision: a higher tax rate only for those making more than $250,000 a year, with 97 percent of Illinois taxpayers paying the same or less than they are now under the current 4.95 percent flat tax.

The General Assembly approved a graduated income tax that spring, sending it on to voters in the general election this fall with Pritzker’s initial brackets only slightly altered up to a top tax rate of just under 8 percent for those making more than $1 million a year. The actual Fair Tax Amendment, however, only changes the state constitution to allow a graduated income tax.

None of that has changed over the last year and a half.

Now, journalists have notoriously poor memories. Dealing with news on a daily basis tends to leave old facts and information buried under the new — especially in these turbulent times. But one might well expect better from the Tribune Editorial Board — or Republican politicians.

* From the 2019 budget address, which can be found on the Tribune’s own website

First, we could choose only to cut state government spending and raise no revenue. To do that, we have to recognize that out of this year’s $39 billion budget, approximately $20 billion is required payments on our debt, on our pensions, on our court-ordered obligations or federally protected programs. That leaves approximately $19 billion dollars. That’s the money we spend educating our children, running our colleges and universities, keeping our streets safe, preserving our natural resources, getting people to and from work efficiently and caring for our veterans. We’ll call that “discretionary spending.” To balance the budget by simply cutting government, we would have to reduce discretionary spending on all these direct services our jobs, our families and our businesses rely on by approximately 15%. That’s 15% fewer state police, 15% fewer students going to college, 15% fewer working parents receiving child care assistance, and 15% less money for your local schools – which likely also means your local property taxes will increase. I should point out that this option was tried in the prior administration, and it failed - because nearly no one thinks it’s a good idea to force our most talented kids to leave the state by diminishing Illinois colleges and universities, drive families away by defunding local schools, make our communities less safe by reducing public safety, and increase poverty by cutting badly needed human services.

Our second option is to raise revenue with our current regressive flat income tax system and impose more flat taxes which fall disproportionately on the working poor and the middle class. This option could require imposing sales taxes on services, implementing a retirement tax, or raising the income tax overall by around 20%. Or all of the above. For a family earning $100,000, that means paying almost a thousand dollars more in income taxes, and their property taxes will continue their upward march as they always have.

Our third option is to reject imposing additional income, retirement and sales taxes on the middle class and instead enact a fair income tax. This would lift some of the tax burden off of middle income earners and instead ask the wealthiest to pay a little more. Just for clarity, a fair tax is what three quarters of states with income taxes have. We can accomplish this with a more competitive rate structure than Wisconsin and Iowa, both of which are outpacing Illinois in job creation and economic growth. We can also implement a fair tax system that’s lower than our metropolitan competitors on the east and west coasts.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Ok - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:09 pm:

    Facts don’t matter anymore

  2. - Ok - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:11 pm:

    “millions of Illinois voters want state government to stop spending so much”

    Where, please?

    Maybe the state can start with the $2+ billion it spends on newspaper advertising each year.

  3. - Morty - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:11 pm:

    Trib Edit Board wrong?

  4. - Last Bull Moose - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:14 pm:

    These have always been the choices. If anything I think much of the discretionary spending is tied to federal matching programs. We lose Federal dollars when we cut state spending.

  5. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:16 pm:


    The reason this (20% increase overall for everyone) the closing argument is that It was prefaced long before, and rolling it out as it is now bookends the campaign.

    The real and only question I have is has enough saturation been done with a voting calendar already at “vote/GOTV” to have the closing argument augment the pitch to sell it?

    I’m not that smart to know, but we’ll all find out together.

    “Define ‘new’”… perfect.

  6. - Arock - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:17 pm:

    Yes the fact that a tax increase will trickle down to the working middle class worker quite soon after passage. That a graduated tax bracket will be passed into law that will have different rates based on what your retirement income is. The fact that the temporary income tax that was passed under Governor Quinn was not ever going to fix the problem and it was known that it would at sometime be made permanent and would have been if Madigan had the House vote on it before the election that made Rauner Governor.

  7. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:21 pm:

    === retirement income is===

    Retirement income isn’t taxed.

    === The fact that the temporary income tax that was passed under Governor Quinn was not ever going to fix the problem and it was known that it would at sometime be made permanent and would have been if Madigan had the House vote on it before the election that made Rauner Governor.===

    Governor Rauner then vetoed two budgets, had no budgets for a whole General Assembly, vetoed a third, vetoed a tax increase that he hoped would be overridden. (It was) then used every dollar for a budget he eventually signed… using those tax dollars.

    This isn’t Facebook. Odds are, the people reading your ridiculousness know it’s phony.

    Try facts.

  8. - TC- - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:22 pm:

    Why would anyone believe Pritzker or anyone else in Springfield that the “fair tax” would only be focused on those making over $250k? 6 months ago we sheltered in-place to “flatten the curve”, but here we are today with JB still flexing his faux emergency power muscles. Those with power generally don’t lessen their grip. The “fair tax” will quickly be expanded to capture lower incomes.

  9. - jim - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:26 pm:

    he’s right - pritzker has been talking about raising taxes since he got elected and even before.
    but in the context of the current campaign, the lt gov’s warning/threat/discussion of a 20 percent tax hike introduces a different argument - hence, new for the time - on behalf of the progressive tax into the discussion.

  10. - City Zen - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:26 pm:

    ==The fact that the temporary income tax that was passed under Governor Quinn was not ever going to fix the problem==

    But it was coupled with a 2 percent limit on spending growth. Is there a similar cap with the Fair Tax?

  11. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:26 pm:

    === Why would anyone believe Pritzker or anyone else in Springfield that the “fair tax” would only be focused on those making over $250k?===

    … because that’s where the rate is that passed the GA, signed too.

    There’s no monster under your bed, no need for a “night-light” you can look up the bill and public act if you’d like.

    === The “fair tax” will quickly be expanded to capture lower incomes.===

    Show your 60/71 and 30/36, the bill number and a governor willing to sign it… or try this drivel on Facebook.

  12. - Cheryl44 - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:27 pm:

    I voted yes on tax amendment.

  13. - @misterjayem - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:31 pm:

    If the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board read the high quality reporting available in the Chicago Tribune, it wouldn’t be the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board.

    – MrJM

  14. - walker - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:32 pm:

    ARock Three “facts” stated. All false. Who are you?

  15. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:33 pm:

    “millions of Illinois voters want state government to stop spending so much”

    So many more Illinoisans apparently don’t support slashing spending. The Trib editorial board is a voice of the Raunerite super-minority who lives to cut the poor, sick, students, vendors, public sector workers and the rest.

    Better we know now about an upcoming flat tax hike, should the Fair Tax fail. There needs to be more communication from Vote Yes about the impact of drastic cuts. Rauner’s budget sabotage has a lot from which to choose, to drive home to voters the harm of revenue starvation. They probably need to get going on this, as we’re starting to vote.

  16. - Norseman - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:39 pm:

    Honesty has been removed from the GOP dictionary. They and their wealthy benefactors will use every deception in the books to convince people who will benefit from Fair Tax to vote against it. That’s the real shame of their campaign.

    While there are excellent good policy/government reasons to approve Fair Tax, there is a more parochial approach that can be used by voters. Go to the Fair Tax Calculator and look at your prospective tax bill under the new tax law. If you pay less, vote for it. If you pay more, vote against it. This is not rocket science.

    P.S. Don’t forget that retirees don’t pay income tax. The anti-folks have been deceptive on that issue as well.

  17. - Banish Misfortune - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:41 pm:

    Actually Arocks proposal about using your retirement income to figure out your rate is interesting. So, say, if you have $100 in retirement income. Include in income to figure out your tax rate under the new fair tax, but then exclude in determining what income should be taxed at that higher rate.
    I will vote in favor of fair tax amendment.

  18. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:48 pm:

    I know dorm rooms are open and such but the facts are still facts and deciding to insert patently false information in the discussion is still a no-no in the dorms, even if it’s your hot pockets you’re sharing.

    === If the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board read the high quality reporting available in the Chicago Tribune, it wouldn’t be the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board.

    – MrJM===

    Top shelf.

    The Editorial Board propagates the foolhardy dorm thinking as they seemingly refuse some of the best reporters in America that routinely make that same board look foolish.

    As people literally vote today, or request absentee ballots, is this brazen misinformation been debunked enough with the $50+ million and weeks and weeks and weeks of education?

  19. - Louis G Atsaves - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:55 pm:

    The Governor and his multiple spokespersons have been reminding us daily that if the graduated income tax increase doesn’t pass, then we get hammered with a 20% income tax increase across the board. I mean, they sound like a broken record making that statement over and over again since that initial budget address in 2019.

    Why even the multi-million dollar expenditures for all those television ads remind us that if we don’t vote for the graduated income tax we will be hammered with an across the board income tax increase of 20%.

    And yes, that is snark. Well deserved snark.

  20. - Annonin' - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:57 pm:

    Very surprising Katrina did not find the woman lt gov and adequate messenger we are sure no slight was intended. And for the 8,300th time Tribbies comment on budget issues without a single suggestion for cuts —- way to keep the streak alive.

  21. - Rick Pearson - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 2:59 pm:

    Rich, I obviously don’t weigh in much here but since it was my story that was the original source I’d like to nite a few points. First, unlike the governor who made tax hikes or cuts an option al alternatve if the amendment failed in rolling out his original graduated rate plan in March 2019, Stratton only noted the 20% hike without any mention of cuts. That’s what made it news. Also, the story noted Pritzker’s original March 2019 statements. Someone can cite journalists “notoriously poor memories,” but that someone noted the tax hike threat in the 19th paragraph of their supportive coverage of the subject. As a reporter, I am agnostic on the issue. But I will defend my coverage of it. Thank you.

  22. - Rick Pearson - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 3:01 pm:

    Obviously that’s “note” a few points. Sorry for the typos.

  23. - OneMan - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 3:27 pm:

    the negative argument isn’t even hard to make.

    Do you trust Springfield with additional flexibility on how they tax income?

    You don’t have to make a convoluted argument. Do you trust the folks in the Illinois Legislature (perhaps run a scroll of mug shots of those who have pled guilty to stuff who were in the GA).

    Even one of the pro ads makes an ‘Springfield is screwed up, who is going to pay for that’ argument.

    I would suggest the track record of the Illinois General Assembly is the most effective and simple argument against it. Make it about the GA.

  24. - Ok - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 4:01 pm:

    Rick… thank goodness for the copyeditors.

  25. - Rick Pearson - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 5:10 pm:

    I don’t normally write material to be printed from my iPhone. But I absolutely respect copy editors. Of course that remark has nothing to do with the subject.

  26. - zatoichi - Monday, Sep 28, 20 @ 5:20 pm:

    11 years ago I heard many of these same arguments with Gov Quinn’s Doomsday budget vs a 50% tax increase budget. Facing multi billion dollar debts the choices were moving from 3% tax to 4.5% tax or how to cut about 30+% from the state budget which hit schools, human services, and most state programs. The histrionics were strong on all sides claiming some version of doom/fairness/needs no matter what happened. Just as then, real costs have to be met. Want schools, roads fixed, services for people, snow plowed, medical coverage? What are you willing to pay for, how much, or what has to go? It is the same song and dance with COVID added to the mix. If a tax increase is horrible, what gets cut to allow enough money to maintain operations. Please do not use the ‘cut the fat’ claim. There ain’t that much of it.

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