In a recent appearance on "Chicago Tonight," I had the opportunity to talk about attempts in Illinois to get a graduated income tax constitutional amendment on the November ballot. Rest assured, liberal activists all across the state are gearing up for a major legislative fight this spring. Proponents of a graduated income tax know that a graduated income tax would hit working families the hardest and would unfairly punish middle class families trying to improve their quality of life. Proponents of a graduated income tax tout "fairness" as the reason to change Illinois' tax structure.
Fairness? Just what exactly is unfair about a flat tax that expects taxpayers to pay the same percentage of their income in taxes? When it comes to taxes, everyone should pay their fair share and in Illinois taxpayers of all income brackets pay a flat tax of 5 percent (this tax rate was unfortunately raised by 67 percent in 2011). The tax rate is scheduled to decrease to 3.75 percent in 2015. The more income a person earns, the more money that individual pays to the state.
The fair tax is the flat tax. If proponents of a graduated income tax really want a fair tax, they would be advocating to keep Illinois fair by making sure Illinois' income tax remains flat.
The point of a graduated income tax is not to create fairness because how can an imbalanced tax burden be fair? The end game with the graduated income is to create more revenue for the state by raising taxes. Liberal politicians know that Illinois taxpayers will not stomach another tax increase battle like the one that occurred in 2011 when a lame-duck legislature approved a so-called temporary income tax increase in the wee hours of the morning. So instead of taking action to make the income tax permanent, liberals are actively working to back door a tax increase by implementing a graduated income tax in Illinois.
Another alarming aspect about the graduated income tax is that proponents have not provided any specifics as to what the new income tax rates would be. The best indication about what the proponents of the graduated income tax want comes from the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. Their proposal is a marginal tax rate ranging from 5 percent to 11 percent. Anyone earning between $5,000 and $100,000 annually would pay a 5 percent marginal tax rate; a family earning $100,000 to $150,000 would pay 7.5 percent and the rates would continue to go up until individuals earning more than $1 million would have to pay an 11 percent tax rate.
Considering the fact that the current 5 percent tax rate is set to be scaled down to 3.75 percent in 2015, the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability's suggested marginal tax rates would essentially be a tax increase on everyone making $5,000 or more per year. Under the guise of fairness, the proponents of a graduated income tax are attempting to implement an even larger income tax increase than the one lawmakers approved in 2011. The last thing Illinois needs right now is higher taxes.
According to a recent study from the Tax Foundation, Illinois has the second-highest property taxes in the country. The combination of high taxes and over-regulation are driving jobs and opportunities out of Illinois and as a result, Illinois has the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the nation. The Pew Charitable Trust's forecast for job growth for 2014 ranks Illinois 50th out of 50 states.
Increasing taxes would only serve to drive more jobs and opportunities out of Illinois. We cannot afford to make the state's economy worse than it already is. What Illinois needs is to create an environment conducive for job growth and job creation. Raising taxes on people making as little as $5,000 per year is as unfair as it is unwise. Please join the fight to oppose a graduated income tax and help keep Illinois flat by going to davidmcsweeney.com and signing the petition.
David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, represents the 52nd House District.